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LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY  OF  CALIFORNIA 
RIVERSIDE 


i    CREDE    PENDEREL.sM^ 


!•     MARQUIS   PENDERJEL  Dl  BOSCOBEL 


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12  YORK  STREET,  COVENT  GARDEN,  LONDON 


THE    MOST    GORGEOUS 
LADY    BLESSINGTON 


I^K 

0B> 


THE   COUNTESS  OF  BLESSINGTON 
From  the  Portrait  by  Sir  TTiemas  Lawrence 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS      2 
LflDY  BLESSINGTON 


J.  FITZGERALD  MOLLOY. 

AUTHOR   OF 

'COURT    LIFE   BELOW   STAIRS,'    'THE   LIFE 

AND   ADVENTURES   OF    I'EG    WOFFIXGTON,'    '  THE    LIFE 

AND  ADVENTURES   OF   EDMUND    KEAN,'    'ROYALTY    RESTORED, 

OR    LONDON    UNDER   CHARLES    II.,'    'FAMOUS    PLAYS,'    'THE    FAITHS 

OF    THE    PEOPLES.'    ETC. 


WITH    A    PORTRAIT    OF    LADY    BLESSINGTON 

IN  TWO   VOLUMES 
VOL.   I. 


DOWNEY  &  CO. 

12  YORK  STREET,  COVENT  GARDEN,  LONDON 
1896 


\f*   I 


CONTENTS 

CHAPTER    I 

An  Irish  Squireen — A  Sensitive  Child  —  The  Joy  of 
being  Understood — Dreams — The  Desmonds  Them- 
selves—  Wild  Times — Rebel  Hunting — Tragedy — 
A  Domestic  Tyrant — Suitors  Twain — Proposals — 
Forced  to  Marry — Misery — Frenzy — Escape — The 
Prelude  of  Her  Life  ....  page  i 

CHAPTER    I  I 

An  Unprotected  Wife — An  Unhappy  House — A  Hateful 
Position  —  Lord  Blessington  appears  upon  the 
Scene  —  A  Tragedy  in  the  Fleet  —  Freedom  and 
Marriage — An  Irish  Welcome — The  Mansion  in  St 
James's  Square  ....  .30 

CHAPTER    III 

Lord  Byron — A  Hero  of  Romance  and  an  Object  of 
Hatred  —  Storm  in  the  Social  Atmosphere  —  In 
Venice  —  The  Rosiest  Romance  of  His  Life  —  A 
Bride  of  Sixteen — Inexorable  Fate — In  Ravenna — 
A  Poet's  Love-Letter — A  Philosophic  Husband — 
Count  Guiccioli  becomes  Uncivil — Strife  and  Separa- 
tion— Byron  is  summoned — A  Common  Disturber — 
In  Pisa— A  Ghost-Haunted  Palace — Banishment — 
A  New  Residence  sought— The  Villa  at  Albaro — 
Lady  Blessington's  Hopes — Lines  written  in  Her 
Diary  .  .  68 


CONTENTS 

CHAPTER    IV 

Lord  Blessington  visits  Byron  —  The  Poet  and  the 
Countess — -First  Impressions — Personal  Appear- 
ance —  His  English  Visitors  —  Reference  to  His 
Child — A  Pleasant  Talk — Flippant  Manner — Count 
D'Orsay's  Diary — Dining  with  the  Blessingtons — His 
Desire  to  grow  Thin — Death  of  Lord  Blessington's 
Heir — Lord  Byron's  Sympathy — His  Expedition  to 
Greece  —  Melancholy  Presentiments  —  His  Super- 
stitions— Impromptu  Lines — Farewell  .  page  93 

C  HAPTER    V 

First  Sight  of  Naples — The  City  Crowds — A  Magnificent 
Palace— Entertaining — Sir  William  Cell — My  Lord's 
Extravagance — The  Building  of  a  Fairy  Palace — 
Lord  Blessington  returns  to  Italy  —  Travelling  in 
Former  Times— The  Inn  at  Borghetto — Life  in  the 
Palazzo  Belvedere — Young  Mathews  as  a  Mimic — 
Amateur  Theatricals — Above  the  Bay  .  .  1 34 

CHAPTER    VI 

Byron  starts  for  Greece — An  Inauspicious  Day — Storm 
and  Danger — A  Desolate  Place — In  Missolonghi — 
Byron's  Illness  and  Death  —  Tidings  reach  the 
Palazzo  Belvedere — Leaving  Naples — Residence  in 
Florence  —  Lamartine  and  Landor  —  An  Original 
Character — An  Eventful  Life— Lander's  Friendship 
with  Lady  Blessington — Mutual  Admiration  .  169 

CHAPTER    VI  I 

Landor  and  Lord  Blessington  sail  for  Naples — Lander's 
Delight  in  the  Bay — His  Impetuosity — The  Bless- 
ingtons leave  Florence — The  Palazzo  Negroni  at 
Rome — Attending  a  Bal  Masque  —  Fallen  Kings 


CONTENTS 

and  Queens — The  Mother  of  Napoleon — Countess 
Guiccioli — Byron's  Will — Lord  Blessington's  Will — 
Count  D'Orsay's  Marriage — Letter  to  Landor — Once 
more  in  Genoa  —  The  Story  of  Teresina  —  Lord 
Blessington's  Gift  .....  page  203 

CHAPTER    VIII 

Hotel  Marechal  Ney— The  Most  Gallant  of  all  Gal- 
lant Husbands — A  Round  of  Gaiety — Mrs  Purves 
marries — Letters  from  Tom  Moore — Lord  Rosslyn's 
Request — Death  of  Lord  Blessington — Letters  from 
Landor — Lady  Blessington's  Grief — First  Breath  of 
Scandal — The  Age  and  its  Infamous  Editor — Instruc- 
tions to  prosecute — Letters  to  Sympathisers  .  229 

CHAPTER    IX 

In  St  James's  Square — Removal  to  Seamore  Place — 
Splendour  of  Lady  Blessington's  Home  —  Distin- 
guished Guests — D'Orsay  the  Leader  of  Dandies — 
Courted  by  all  — His  Neglected  Wife — Separation — 
Lady  Harriet's  Friendship  with  Royalty — Scandal — 
A  Brave  Show— Lady  Blessington's  Letters  .  267 


PREFACE 

STRANGE  as  the  statement  may  seem, 
it  is  not  less  true  that  no  luminous 
biography  of  Lady  Blessington  has  been 
written :  strange  because  her  life  pre- 
sents in  itself  a  romance  such  as  facts 
seldom  contain  or  combine  ;  such  as 
Fate  denies  to  ordinary  mortals. 

Virtue  and  happiness,  beautiful  and 
enviable  as  they  are,  afford  meagre 
material  for  memoirs.  It  is  they  whose 
swift  -  stirred  sympathies  and  longings 
for  happiness  carry  them  beyond  the 
pale  of  the  commonplace  and  the  bonds 


PREFACE 

of  conventionality,  whose  loves  are  ill- 
starred  and  whose  lives  are  shadowed  ; 
they  who  strive  and  suffer,  who  aspire 
and  falter,  who  possess  and  present 
studies  that  move  and  fascinate  us. 
Their  heart  histories  appeal  from  out 
the  past  for  green  places  in  our 
memories. 

Of  such  was  the  gifted  and  beautiful 
Irishwoman — 'the  most  gorgeous  Lady 
Blessington '  as  she  was  styled  by  Dr 
Parr,  and  as  she  was  known  to  her  in- 
timates— whose  biography  is  here  written 
with  an  admiration  that  borders  on 
affection,  and  with  that  sympathy  which 
sorrow  solicits. 

In  writing  the  opening  sentence  the 
fact  has  not  been  overlooked  that  some 
fifty  years  ago  '  A  Memoir  of  the  Literary- 
Life  and  Correspondence  of  the  Countess 
of  Blessington '  was  written  by  Dr 
Madden,  who  for  years  had  enjoyed  her 


PREFACE 

acquaintance,  and  into  whose  possession 
some  of  her  correspondence  passed  after 
her  death. 

The  production  of  this  Life  of  my  Lady 
Blessington  is  partly  due  to  the  fact 
that  the  writer  has  been  kindly  permitted 
to  make  use  of  the  six  volumes  in  Mr 
Morrison's  possession  of  letters  addressed 
by  the  leading  men  and  women  of  the 
day  in  literature,  art  and  society  to  the 
Countess,  or  written  by  herself.  Here 
are  published  for  the  first  time  letters 
or  parts  of  letters  which  Disraeli,  Dickens, 
Landor,  Barry  Cornwall,  Marryat,  Mac- 
ready,  Lord  Lytton  and  others  addressed 
to  her. 

The  letters  given  here  are  not  pitch- 
forked into  the  pages  irrespective  of 
what  has  gone  before,  or  of  what  remains 
behind ;  but  are  introduced  to  illustrate 
a  character,  to  strengthen  statements,  oc- 
casionally to  enlarge  a  view.  Frequently 


PREFACE 

the  information  contained  in  the  corre- 
spondence is  embodied  in  the  memoir 
without  reference  to  their  writers,  lest 
such  might  break  the  even  flow  of  the 
narrative. 

For  much  valuable  information  the 
writer  is  likewise  indebted  to  manuscripts 
found  in  the  archives  of  the  British 
Museum  Library ;  to  biographies,  lives, 
and  letters  of  the  contemporaries  of  the 
Countess  who  came  within  the  circle 
and  felt  the  charm  of  her  influence  ;  and 
to  the  verbal  descriptions  of  two  friends 
who  knowing  her  history  appreciated  her 
worth. 

That  the  same  appreciation  and  charm 
may  be  felt  by  those  who  here  read 
this  record  of  Lady  Blessington's  life, 
is  a  satisfaction  which  the  writer  wishes 
to  one  and  all,  his  critics  included. 

J.  FITZGERALD  MOLLOY. 


THE    MOST    GORGEOUS 
LADY  BLESSINGTON 

CHAPTER  I 

An  Irish  Squireen — A  Sensitive  Child — the  Joy 
of  being  Understood — Dreams — The  Desmonds 
Themselves  —  Wild  Times  —  Rebel  Hunting — 
Tragedy — A  Domestic  Tyrant — Suitor's  Twain — 
Proposals — Forced  to  Marry— Misery — Frenzy — 
Escape — The  Prelude  of  Her  Life. 

MORE  than  a  century  has  passed  since  a  child 
was  born  into  the  world  whose  strange  and 
changeful  career  from  its  bitter  beginning 
even  to  its  close,  could  count  as  experiences, 
reversals  of  fortune,  phases  of  mystery,  in- 
felicity [of  marriage,  and  the  passion  of  love ; 
these  rich  elements  of  romance  that  lend 
fascination  to  reality.  This  child,  born  on 
the  first  day  of  September  1789  at  Knockbrit 

VOL.   I.  I  A 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

near  Clonmel  in  the  county  of  Tipperary  in 
Ireland,  was  christened  Margaret  Power.  Her 
father  Edmund  Power  an  Irish  squireen  was 
the  descendant  of  an  ancient  family  residing 
in  the  adjacent  county  of  Waterford  ;  whilst 
her  mother  a  County  Limerick  woman,  de- 
lighted to  trace  her  descent  from  Maurice 
first  Earl  of  Desmond,  and  to  enumerate 
for  the  benefit  of  her  children  and  her 
neighbours  the  great  and  noble  houses  with 
which  her  family  was  connected. 

Edmund  Power  was  a  man  whose  high 
spirit  not  infrequently  led  him  into  violence  ; 
whose  love  of  sport  caused  him  to  neglect  such 
merely  mercenary  matters  as  the  cultivation  of 
his  property;  whose  desire  to  entertain  and 
whose  love  of  display,  drifted  him  into  debt  and 
difficulties,  after  the  fashion  of  his  kind  in  the 
days  in  which  he  dwelt.  Tall  straight-built 
and  handsome,  florid  of  face,  peremptory  of 
speech,  he  dressed  in  leather  breeches  and  top 
boots,  wore  white  cravats,  frills,  ruffles,  and 
top  seals,  which  costume  helped  to  give  him 
a  showy  and  impressive  appearance,  and  to 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

gain  for  him  amongst  his  fellow  squires  the 
names  of  Beau  Power,  and  Shiver  the  Frills. 
His  wife  whom  he  had  married  early  in  life 
seems  to  have  been  an  inactive  woman,  too 
weak  to  influence  her  husband  or  avert  his 
ruin  ;  and  too  much  absorbed  in  the  glories  of 
'  me  ancestors  the  Desmonds '  to  enter  into 
the  inner  lives  of  her  children,  of  whom 
she  bore  six. 

Margaret  the  third  of  these,  if  not  quite 
overlooked  was  little  cared  for  in  her  child- 
hood. Extremely  delicate,  nervous,  and  ex- 
cessively sensitive,  she  sat  apart,  silent  and 
pale-faced  whilst  her  robust  brothers  and 
sisters  romped,  played,  and  teased  her  for  not 
joining  in  their  sports  :  she,  being  all  unlike  them 
physically  as  well  as  mentally :  for  whilst  they 
were  remarkably  handsome,  she  was  considered 
comparatively  plain.  During  the  time  she 
remained  apart  from  their  joyous  company, 
her  mind — the  strange  mysterious  kingdom 
of  a  child's  mind,  which  can  only  be  entered 
into  by  those  possessing  the  passport  of 
sympathy — was  receiving  impressions,  think- 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

ing  out  ideas,  perceiving  facts  which  when 
put  into  words  led  her  nurse  to  consider  her 
uncanny,  perhaps  a  changling,  and  confirmed 
the  general  impression  that  one  so  sad  of 
manner  whilst  yet  so  young,  so  weak  in  body 
and  with  such  wistful  eyes,  could  not  live 
long. 

With  age  she  gained  strength,  but  her 
characteristics  remained ;  and  the  quaint  specu- 
lative questions  she  asked,  the  occasional 
gleams  of  insight  she  showed,  the  comments 
she  passed,  which  previously  had  only  excited 
ridicule,  now  attracted  to  the  shy  child  the  atten- 
tion of  a  friend  of  the  family,  Miss  Anne  Dwyer, 
a  voluble-tongued,  kind-hearted  woman,  with 
great  natural  though  uncultivated  gifts,  whose 
vivacity  and  repartee  led  her  to  be  regarded  as 
a  person  of  ability  by  those  incapable  of  judg- 
ing her  talents.  She  was  sympathetic  and 
clever  enough  to  see  that  Margaret  was  in 
no  ways  understood  by  those  around  her, 
and  generous  enough  to  devote  herself  to  this 
lonely  child  in  whose  nature  great  qualities 
possibly  lay  dormant.  Therefore  the  latter 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

was  encouraged  to  make  those  inquiries  which 
formerly  had  produced  only  laughter,  but 
which  now  were  answered  with  all  the  clear- 
ness and  ability  that  Anne  Dwyer  possessed. 

The  joy  which  the  poor  child  found  in 
being  understood  was  pathetic  ;  a  hand  had 
been  held  out  to  her  in  solitude,  to  which 
she  eagerly  clung,  and  she  was  prepared  to 
learn  whatever  lessons  her  instructress  pro- 
posed, and  to  lay  bare  her  mind  to  one  so 
capable  of  satisfying  its  demands.  One  day 
the  pupil  asked  where  her  teacher  had  gained 
her  knowledge,  and  when  answered  it  was 
from  books,  Margaret  developed  a  passion 
for  reading  which  increased  with  years  and 
continued  through  life.  A  faculty  she  had 
always  possessed  now  began  to  show  itself, 
when  her  vivid  imagination  conjured  up  scenes, 
peoples,  and  events,  at  first  for  the  benefit 
of  her  brothers  and  sisters  who  loved  strange 
tales,  but  afterwards  for  the  entertainment 
of  her  parents'  guests  ;  for  her  father  and 
mother  being  first  astonished,  soon  grew  inter- 
ested in  her  powers  of  story-telling. 
5 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Now    Edmund    Power's    property    which   at 
one   time  had  brought  him  fifteen   hundred    a 

year,   became   through   neglect  and    increasing 

• 
debt    of    less    and    less    value.     But    so    long 

as  he  could  have  dogs  and  hunters,  and 
enjoy  wine  and  revelry,  the  world  went  well 
with  him  and  he  was  content  to  put  off  till 
to-morrow  such  unpleasant  considerations  as 
tradesmen's  bills  and  obtruding  bailiffs.  The 
day  came  however  when  such  sinister  sights 
could  no  longer  be  shut  out,  and  he  was 
obliged  to  leave  Knockbrit  and  take  up  his 
residence  in  Clonmel,  when,  though  retain- 
ing some  part  of  his  property,  he  entered 
into  partnership  as  a  corn  merchant  and 
butter  buyer  with  Messrs  Hunt  &  O'Brien 
whose  business  premises  were  in  the  neigh- 
bouring city  of  Waterford. 

To  the  inexperienced  change  is  ever  de- 
lightful, and  the  removal  of  the  family  was 
hailed  with  pleasure  by  the  children  with  the 
exception  of  Margaret,  who  looked  forward 
with  sad  foreboding  to  leaving  the  place  she 
had  peopled  with  her  dreams ;  the  country 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

with  its  distant  hills  on  whose  blue  heights 
bonfires  flamed  against  the  black  on  the  Eves 
of  St  James  and  St  John  ;  the  far  fields  where 
under  the  sleeping  moonlight,  hand  in  hand 
in  circles  weird,  fairies  danced  around  rings, 
their  sportive  figures  aerial  as  the  violet  shadows 
from  which  they  sprang ;  the  lanes  down 
which  the  gracious  knight  who  sought  her 
all  the  world  o'er,  one  day  would  come  : 
the  desolate  moors  across  which  the  headless 
horseman  strove  to  outride  the  winds  on  winter 
nights ;  and  the  dark  river  by  which  the  blanch- 
robed  banshee  was  seen  to  walk.  None  of 
these  things  were  to  be  found  in  a  town  whose 
streets  and  shops  and  peoples  were  less  dear 
and  sacred  to  her  than  the  scenes  over 
which  she  had  roamed  uncontrolled,  a  silent 
self-communing  child,  solitary  save  for  the 
luminous  dreams  that  lighted  the  world 
round. 

But  her  feelings  on  this  point  as  on  others 
were  not  entered  into  by  her  family,  and 
stealing  from  them  on  the  last  evening  of 
their  stay  under  the  old  home  roof,  she  a 

7 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

sad  and  lonely  figure  moving  through  the 
thickening  grey,  walked  to  the  spots  which 
association  and  memories  had  made  sweet  to 
her,  to  bid  them  all  farewell  ;  conscious  possi- 
bly that  some  link  uniting  the  past  and 
the  future,  was  being  snapped  in  the  chain 
of  her  life ;  a  chain  which  time  could  never 
unite,  bring  the  years  what  they  would.  On 
her  return,  stealthy  and  timid,  she  carried  with 
her  a  few  wild  flowers  for  remembrance,  and 
with  an  intuition  which  teaches  that  what  is 
sacred  to  oneself  should  be  hidden  from  all,  she 
thrust  them  into  her  pocket  from  which  only 
when  alone  was  she  to  release  and  carry 
them  to  her  lips. 

The  small  and  incommodious  house  into 
which  they  moved,  stood  near  an  old  stone 
bridge  that  joined  the  counties  of  Clonmel  and 
Waterford,  at  a  place  called  Suir  Island.  Here 
soon  after  their  arrival  occurred  a  little  scene 
which  vignette  like,  illustrates  the  character 
of  Margaret  and  the  lack  of  understand- 
ing shown  by  her  family.  Whilst  Mrs  Power 

received     some     friends    who     were     admiring 
8 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

the  other  children  for  their  strength  and 
beauty,  Margaret  who  had  no  share  in  the 
general  praise  stood  silently  by,  eagerly  listen- 
ing, and  hardly  observed  until  one  of  the 
circle  turning  towards  her  said,  '  Come  here 
my  dear  and  show  me  what  you  have  bulging 
in  your  pocket.' 

Margaret,  confused  and  nervous,  refused  to 
stir  until  her  mother  beckoned  her,  when 
blushing  because  of  the  notice  she  attracted, 
and  fearful  of  its  result,  she  crossed  the  room 
when  the  contents  of  her  pocket,  the  flowers 
she  had  gathered  in  Knockbrit  were  brought 
to  light  amidst  much  laughter,  and  contemptu- 
ously flung  out  of  the  window.  On  this 
the  child  burst  into  a  passion  of  tears  she 
could  no  longer  keep  back,  when  she  was 
sternly  reproved  for  being  foolish  and  ill- 
tempered. 

The  change  which  was  made  about  the 
year  1797  must  have  been  galling  to  a  poor 
proud  lady  who  was  '  a  real  descendant  of  the 
Desmonds  themselves,'  as  well  as  to  the  squireen 
husband  whose  ancestors  '  had  never  dirtied 
9 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

their  hands  by  earning  a  penny  piece.'  The 
change  however  had  its  compensations,  for 
the  business  in  which  he  had  become  a  partner 
prospered  greatly,  and  promised  to  restore  his 
fortunes  and  secure  independence  to  his 
children. 

Unhappily  this  state  of  affairs  did  not  con- 
tinue long,  for  in  an  evil  hour  he  listened  to 
a  proposal,  the  acceptance  of  which  brought 
about  his  ruin.  This  proposal  made  by  Lord 
Donoughmore  was  that  Edmund  Power  should 
become  a  magistrate  for  the  counties  of 
Tipperary  and  Waterford.  The  social  distinc- 
tion which  this  situation  offered  was  one  to 
comfort  and  flatter  Beau  Power,  now  lowered 
in  his  dignity  and  wounded  in  his  pride.  Once 
more  the  squireen  might  hold  his  head  high, 
might  hunt  with  and  entertain  the  military 
and  the  county  families,  and  become  a  person 
to  be  feared  and  flattered  by  the  coerced  and 
terror-stricken  people.  That  no  salary  or 
other  reward  was  attached  to  the  office  seemed 
no  drawback  to  its  acceptance,  and  was  a 
matter  this  fine  gentleman  would  regard  as 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

beneath  his  consideration :  on  the  other  hand 
promises  were  held  out  by  his  lordship,  then 
a  person  of  influence  at  the  Castle,  of  a  lucrative 
post  for  services  rendered  the  government,  and 
even  hints  of  a  baronetcy  were  not  withheld 
from  him.  Power  gladly  accepted  the  offer 
though  it  involved  a  change  of  his  religion  : 
for  he  had  been  born  and  bred  a  Catholic 
and  until  now  had  nominally  belonged  to  the 
church  whose  members  were  considered  in- 
eligible for  the  magistracy.  He  therefore 
conformed  to  the  Protestant  religion,  an  act 
regarded  with  abhorrence  by  his  family  and 
friends ;  and  so  long  and  no  longer  as  there 
remained  a  chance  of  his  receiving  the  promised 
rewards  from  his  patron,  did  he  continue  to 
profess  that  faith. 

To  understand  the  duties  a  magistrate  was 
then  called  on  to  perform,  and  the  manner 
in  which  he  carried  them  out,  it  is  necessary 
to  bear  in  mind  the  state  of  the  times.  Long 
suffering  from  distress  and  discontent,  Ireland 
was  now  seething  with  rebellion.  The  United 
Irishmen  founded  by  Wolfe  Tone  in  1791  with 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

the  object  of  forcing  the  government  to  relax 
the  terrible  severity  of  the  laws  which  oppressed 
the  people,  and  if  necessary  to  invite  French 
aid  towards  helping  them  to  liberty,  had 
become  a  secret  society  which  numbered  half 
a  million  members.  Not  only  were  their  meet- 
ings prohibited,  but  the  local  magistrates  in 
whose  hands  the  execution  of  the  most  vigorous 
measures  were  entirely  left,  were  empowered 
to  send  all  persons  suspected  of  belonging  to 
the  movement  into  the  navy  :  to  search  houses 
for  arms  :  and  to  treat  as  culprits  all  who  should 
be  absent  from  their  homes  without  a  satis- 
factory cause  after  a  certain  hour  in  the  even- 
ing. The  magistrates  in  their  search  for 
Insurgents  were  accompanied  by  the  military 
who  practised  horrible  outrages ;  sometimes, 
under  the  pretext  that  arms  were  concealed  in 
them,  houses  were  plundered  and  burned  and 
their  inhabitants  subjected  to  torture  by  way 
of  forcing  a  confession.  In  October  1796  the 
Habeas  Corpus  Act  wras  suspended;  and  all  Ire- 
land was  proclaimed  under  martial  law  in  March 
1798,  in  which  year  the  rebellion  broke  out. 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

A  fearless  horseman  and  a  determined  enemy 
of  rebels,  Power  rode  at  night  through  the 
terrorised  country  whose  black  and  mournful 
silence  was  broken  only  by  the  clattering  troop 
of  dragoons  following  him ;  seizing  upon  all 
chance  wayfarers,  searching  suspected  houses, 
and  striking  terror  into  the  hearts  of  peasants 
in  the  darkness  of  their  cabins ;  whilst  by  day 
the  severity  of  his  punishments  caused  him 
to  be  the  dread  and  the  curse  of  the  unfortunate 
men  brought  before  him.  As  a  consequence 
the  friends  of  those  wronged  by  his  tyranny, 
burned  his  corn  stores,  killed  his  cattle,  and 
destroyed  his  crops,  and  his  partners  after 
many  attempts,  at  last  succeeded  in  getting 
rid  of  so  obnoxious  a  person.  In  return  for 
these  misfortunes  he  received  letters  from  the 
Castle  acknowledging  his  services  and  praising 
his  zeal,  and  on  presenting  himself  at  the  vice- 
regal court,  he  was  shown  gratifying  marks 
of  attention,  and  given  fresh  promises  of  reward 
which  might  have  been  kept  had  not  his  office, 
as  a  magistrate  been  abruptly  ended  by  an 
act  which  throws  a  lurid  light  upon  these 
'3 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

troubled  times,  and  illustrates  the  character  of 
this  man. 

It  happened  one  April  evening  that  a  young 
farm  labourer,  named  John  Lonnergan,  the  son 
of  a  widow,  was  in  his  cabin  when  he  proposed 
to  take  to  a  neighbouring  forge  a  pitchfork 
which  had  been  broken. 

'Johnnie  dear  it's  too  late  to  go'  said  the 
widow  '  maybe  its  Power  and  the  soldiers 
you'd  be  meeting.' 

'  Never  mind  mother '  answered  the  lad 
'sure  I'll  only  leave  it  and  hurry  back;  you 
know  I  can't  do  without  it  to-morrow : '  and 
away  he  went  light-heartedly  to  meet  his  fate. 

He  had  not  gone  a  mile  from  his  home  when 
he  caught  the  quick  clatter  of  hoofs  on  the 
narrow  road  and  looking  behind  saw  through 
the  gathering  grey  of  this  spring  evening,  the 
man  who  was  the  terror  of  the  country,  riding 
at  a  furious  rate,  and  followed  by  two  others. 
The  lad  in  his  fright  jumped  over  a  ditch  and 
ran  through  the  adjoining  fields,  seeing  which 
Power  who  was  probably  far  from  sober,  be- 
lieved he  had  discovered  a  rebel,  called  out  to, 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

and  then  fired  at  him,  when  he  fell  covered 
with  blood.  At  sound  of  the  report,  a  woman 
named  Bridget  Hannan  rushed  to  the  spot 
where  she  saw  Power  standing  on  a  ditch,  a 
smoking  gun  in  his  hand,  who  said  he  would 
shoot  her  if  she  came  any  further.  Lonnergan 
who  was  still  living  but  quite  insensible,  was 
taken  and  flung  on  horseback  behind  Power's 
servant  to  whom  he  was  strapped,  when  the 
party  rode  into  Clonmel  and  in  the  first  in- 
stance turned  into  the  stableyard  of  the 
magistrate  whose  family  startled  to  attention 
by  his  oaths,  hurried  to  the  windows  to 'see  a 
lad  apparently  dead,  his  head  sunk  upon  his 
breast,  his  clothes  steeped  with  blood,  his  limbs 
hanging  powerless  from  the  horse  on  which  he 
was  held.  In  this  condition  he  was  taken  to 
the  court  house  or  jail  where  the  blood  by  that 
time  being  well  nigh  drained  from  his  veins,  he 
survived  only  a  few  hours;  his  body  smeared 
and  stark,  being  then  hung  up  for  exhibition 
above  the  grim  gateway  of  the  old  stone 
building,  that  the  people  might  be  warned  by 
the  ghastly  sight  from  all  tendencies  to  rebel. 
15 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Now  the  widow  having  watched  through  the 
lonely  night  for  the  return  of  her  son,  went  in 
the  soft  flush  of  early  morning  to  make 
inquiries  for  him  at  the  forge,  where  he  had 
not  been  seen  nor  heard  of;  and  from  there 
she  walked  into  Clonmel,  anxious  and  weary, 
hoping  and  fearing,  but  no  trace  of  him  could 
she  find  until  in  passing  the  jail  she  was 
attracted  by  sight  of  that  at  which  a  mournful 
crowd  was  silently  gazing.  One  glance  told 
her  mother's  heart  what  it  was,  when  with  a 
piercing  shriek  she  fell  to  the  ground. 
Presently  when  she  recovered  consciousness 
and  had  learned  how  it  was  her  '  Johnnie  dear ' 
had  been  taken  from  her,  she  knelt  upon  the 
rough  pavement  in  front  of  that  ghastly  figure, 
and  with  all  the  fervour  and  eloquence  of  her 
race,  cursed  his  murderer. 

It  is  probable  that  no  notice  would  have 
been  taken  of  this  occurrence,  which  Power 
set  down  to  his  zeal  for  the  government, 
if  the  murdered  lad's  family  had  not 
been  urged  by  their  landlord  Bagnell,  who 

hated     Power    because    of    his     alliance     with 
16 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

the  Donoughmore  interest,  to  prosecute  the 
magistrate.  Even  when  proceedings  were 
taken  against  him,  the  grand  jury  composed 
of  men  like  himself,  threw  out  the  bill,  and  it 
was  only  when  a  second  bill  was  sent  up  that 
it  was  accepted,  and  he  was  returned  to  take 
his  trial  for  murder.  The  defence  was  that 
Lonnergan  was  one  of  a  dangerous  gang  of 
rebels,  and  that  he  had  fired  a  stone  at  his 
murderer,  statements  for  which  no  evidence 
was  forthcoming.  The  result  was  that  Power, 
as  an  active  agent  for  the  government,  was 
acquitted,  but  that  his  name  was  removed  from 
the  magistracy. 

Previous  to  his  trial  he  had  at  Lord 
Donoughmore's  suggestion,  and  in  order  to 
advocate  his  lordship's  political  views,  become 
the  proprietor  of  the  Clonmel  Gazette  or 
Munster  Mercury,  the  editor  of  which  was 
Bernard  Wright,  a  wit,  a  poet,  and  a  teacher 
of  foreign'  languages,  but  no  politician ;  who, 
because  a  letter  in  the  French  language  had 
in  1798  been  found  upon  him,  had  received  a 
hundred  lashes  by  order  of  Sir  John  Judkin 

VOL.  I.  17  B 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Fitzgerald  '  an  extremely  active,  spirited,  and 
meritorious  magistrate'  as  the  parliamentary 
proceedings  styled  him.  Edmund  Power  knew 
nothing  of  newspapers  and  this  venture  merely 
served  to  sink  him  deeper  in  the  mire  of  debt. 
The  state  of  his  finances  was  such  that  his 
daughters,  amongst  other  humiliations,  were 
made  to  feel  that  their  school  fees  were  unpaid, 
and  were  prevented  from  learning  certain  kinds 
of  fancy  work,  without  a  knowledge  of  which 
no  girl's  education  was  considered  complete. 

Laughed  at  for  his  pretensions  by  the  class 
whom  he  sought,  hated  as  a  renegade  and 
an  enemy  of  his  country  by  the  class  he 
despised,  baffled  in  his  hopes  of  obtaining 
recognition  and  reward  from  the  govern- 
ment he  served,  he  was  a  soured  and  a 
desperate  man.  Always  given  to  conviviality 
he  now  became  dissipated,  and  as  a  con- 
sequence his  temper  grew  more  violent,  his  fits 
of  rage  more  frequent ;  he  treated  his  wife  with 
brutality,  and  became  the  terror  of  his  home 
where  he  delighted  to  display  his  tyranny. 

The    slightest    disregard    to    his    wishes    was 
18 


LAD  Y  BLESS1NGTON 

punished  by  flinging  knives,  plates,  cups,  or 
whatever  came  readiest  to  his  hand,  at  the 
heads  of  the  offenders.  Terror-stricken  by  his 
drunken  fury,  his  cruelty,  and  his  desperate 
oaths,  his  children  fled  from  his  approach, 
and  as  a  result  of  the  misery  of  their  home, 
his  eldest  daughter  Anne  fell  into  a  nervous 
condition  which  speedily  brought  about  her 
death. 

Notwithstanding  the  state  of  his  circum- 
stances he  continued  to  entertain  recklessly, 
by  way  of  keeping  up  appearances ;  and 
when  in  1803  a  regiment  of  the  47th  foot 
was  ordered  to  Clonmel,  he  invited  the 
officers  to  dinner.  Amongst  those  who  ac- 
cepted his  invitation  were  Captain  James 
Murray  and  Captain  Maurice  St  Leger 
Farmer,  both  of  whom  became  ardent 
admirers  of  Margaret  Power.  Though  only 
fourteen  years  old  at  this  time,  she  was  in 
the  habit  of  sitting  at  her  father's  table  when 
he  received  company ;  but  it  is  significant 
that  when  these  young  men  came  to  her 
home,  she,  a  mere  school  -  girl,  was  con- 
'9 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

sidered   too   young   to   be  formally  introduced 
to  them. 

From  the  fact  that  their  other  children 
possessed  more  regularity  of  feature,  her 
parents  were  not  quick  to  recognise  the 
charm  that  depended  more  on  colour  and 
expression  which  Margaret,  now  the  eldest 
daughter,  began  to  develop.  Her  large  grey- 
blue  eyes,  wistful,  winsome,  and  almost  dark 
in  the  shadow  of  long  lashes,  were  con- 
trasted by  abundant  brown  hair  rather 
light  in  colour;  her  face  round  and  soft,  was 
fresh  and  clear  in  complexion  with  sweet 
little  dimples  that  lapsed  into  smiles :  her 
exquisitely  shaped  head  with  its  tiny  pink 
ears  was  gracefully  poised  upon  white 
sloping  shoulders,  blue  veined  like  her 
arms :  whilst  her  hands  were  so  beautiful 
that  years  later  they  served  as  models  to 
Henry  Barlowe  the  sculptor.  Her  figure 
gave  promise  of  a  grace  that  already  marked 
her  movements ;  whilst  not  the  least  of  those 
charms  which  were  subsequently  to  exercise 
forcible  influence  over  others,  was  her  voice, 

20 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

which  low,  soft,  caressing,  and  just  flavoured 
with  an  accent  that  gave  it  piquancy,  fell 
wooingly  upon  the  ear. 

Little  wonder  that  these  young  men  felt  the 
fascination  of  this  girl  with  her  winsome  beauty 
and  her  child-like  shyness  ;  a  fascination  they 
lost  no  time  in  declaring.  Though  showing  no 
affection  for  either,  she  liked  Captain  Murray 
far  the  better  of  the  two.  his  frank  face,  good 
humour,  and  deferential  ways  pleasing  her; 
whilst  Captain  Farmer  had  from  the  first 
filled  her  sensitive  mind  with  a  fear  she  could 
not  overcome ;  a  fear  probably  arising  from 
the  fact  that  though  good-looking  and  well- 
shaped,  his  manner  was  often  wild  and  abrupt. 
Moreover  there  was  about  him  a  general  air  of 
excitability  that  awed  her,  which  though  she 
was  then  unaware  of  the  cause,  was  due  to 
temporary  fits  of  insanity  from  which  he 
had  suffered  since  birth. 

A  day  came  when  Captain  Murray  asked 
her  to  become  his  wife  and  met  with  a 
refusal;  she  telling  him,  she  was  too  young 
to  think  of  marriage,  and  that  though  she 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

liked,  she  did  not  love  him.  Seeing  that  he 
was  repugnant  to  her,  Captain  Farmer  had 
not  proposed  to  her  personally,  but  set  about 
gaining  her  in  what  he  considered  a  more 
certain  way ;  this  was  to  ask  her  father's 
permission  to  make  her  his  wife.  Beau 
Power  was  delighted  at  the  prospect  of 
ridding  himself  of  the  encumbrance  of  a 
daughter,  especially  when  now  on  the  verge 
of  ruin  he  could  satisfactorily  dispose  of 
her  to  an  officer  in  the  army,  a  man  of  old 
family,  'who  offered  the  most  liberal  pro- 
posals which  a  large  fortune  enabled  him 
to  make.' 

The  bargain  was  closed  without  delay, 
and  one  evening  Margaret  was  called  into  the 
shabby  dining-room,  the  atmosphere  of  which 
was  heavy  with  the  smell  of  roast  meat  and 
whisky,  where  though  long  after  dinner  her 
father  was  still  drinking  his  customary  four 
glasses  of  punch.  This  from  miserable  experi- 
ence, was  known  to  be  and  dreaded  as  his  worst 
hour.  Pale  and  trembling,  the  child,  yet  in 
short  frocks,  stood  at  the  foot  of  the  table,  her 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

wistful  eyes  striving  to  read  the  flushed  and 
frowning  face  of  the  tyrant,  who  roughly  and 
briefly  told  her  that  she  was  to  marry  Captain 
Farmer.  She  heard  in  silence,  scarce  believ- 
ing he  was  serious,  but  on  learning  that  her 
father  meant  what  he  said,  she  burst  into 
tears  and  refused  to  obey.  Power  who 
allowed  those  he  ruled  to  have  no  will  but 
his  own,  shouted  out  violent  threats  in  his 
semi-drunken  fury,  struck  the  table,  stormed 
and  swore  he  would  be  obeyed,  when  she 
escaped  from  the  room  and  blindly  sought 
her  own,  situated  at  the  top  of  the  house, 
a  dingy  little  apartment  sacred  to  her  as  a 
sanctuary,  the  eaves  of  its  sloping  roof  the 
shelter-place  of  many  nests,  its  high  solitary 
window  looking  down  upon  the  river,  the 
worn  bridge,  and  the  island  beyond  with 
its  rushes.  Here  she  gave  vent  to  the  grief 
which  shook,  to  the  fear  which  overwhelmed 
her,  rebelling  in  the  bitterness  of  her  heart 
against  the  fate  which  threatened  her.  The 
dislike  she  had  from  the  first  felt  towards 
Captain  Farmer,  now  deepened  to  repulsion : 
23 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

the  unknown  was  more  terrible  to  this  child 
than  the  miseries  she  could  realise,  though 
the  latter  were  cruel  enough :  for  as  long 
as  she  could  remember  her  home  had  been 
darkened  by  a  man  of  violent  temper  and 
brutal  manner,  such  as  her  future  husband 
promised  to  be ;  and  she  remembered  with 
self-pity  the  nervous  apprehensions,  the  watch- 
ful terror,  the  strain  of  mind,  the  household 
had  long  endured-  Was  her  future  to  be  as 
her  past  ? 

One  hope  for  her  remained.  Broken-spirited 
and  ill-used  as  her  mother  was,  she  would 
surely  rebel  against  her  husband  in  his 
attempt  to  sacrifice  his  daughter.  True, 
though  affectionate  in  an  impulsive  and 
undiscerning  way,  she  had  from  want  of 
sympathy  and  insight,  ever  failed  to  under- 
stand her  daughter's  nature,  and  had  never 
been  drawn  to  her  by  that  bond  of  union 
which  is  closer  than  relationship,  which  relation- 
ship itself  frequently  fails  to  establish.  It 
might  be  however  that  having  suffered  in  her 

own    married    life,   she    would    in    this    point 
24 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

recognise  the  misery  that  awaited  her  child 
and  strive  to  avert  it :  but  Margaret  was  soon 
to  learn  that  her  hopes  in  this  direction  were 
ill-founded.  For  whilst  the  girl  was  still  upon 
her  knees  in  tears,  her  mother  entered  the 
room,  and  one  glance  at  her  face  showed 
that  the  sympathy  and  aid  anxiously  looked 
for  were  missing.  To  Margaret's  sob-choked 
cry  '  Oh  mother  have  you  heard  ? '  the 
answer  came  that  she  knew  all  and  con- 
sidered Margaret  foolish  to  behave  in  such 
a  rebellious  manner.  She  was  a  child  with 
romantic  notions  ;  books  had  filled  her  mind 
with  nonsense  ;  her  parents  were  the  best 
judges  of  how  she  should  act.  She  should  be 
pleased  and  flattered  to  have  a  proposal  from 
Captain  Farmer,  instead  of  giving  way  to 
foolish  tears :  for  he  was  a  young  and  a  hand- 
some man  much  in  love  with  her ;  he  was  in  a 
good  position  and  had  fine  prospects ;  what 
more  did  she  want? 

As  for  not  loving  him,  that  was  because  she 
had   got  absurd    notions  from  reading  poetry  ; 
when  girls  grew  up  they  had  to  think  of  other 
25 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

things  than  love.  What  she  should  remember 
was  that  her  father  was  a  ruined  man,  who 
might  be  sold  up  and  left  without  a  home  any 
day :  that  it  was  her  duty  to  catch  at  this 
chance  of  a  settlement  which  would  be  a  relief 
to  her  family,  and  that  as  Captain  Farmer's  wife 
she  would  have  an  opportunity  of  advancing  her 
sisters'  and  perhaps  her  brothers'  prospects.  At 
all  events  marry  she  must,  and  without  delay. 
There  now  seemed  no  chance  of  escape 
from  a  marriage  which  she  feared  and 
loathed  :  without  a  friend  capable  of  aiding 
or  protecting  her,  she  was  driven  into  that 
innermost  loneliness  where  so  much  of  her 
life  from  childhood  upwards  had  been  spent. 
Her  white  face  with  its  imploring  eyes  only 
made  her  father  more  furious,  and  if  possible 
more  determined  she  should  marry  Farmer, 
to  whom  he  was  probably  under  obligations. 
The  force  of  her  grief  was  therefore  reserved 
for  night,  when  in  the  silence  broken  only  by 
the  surge  of  the  river,  and  the  swish  of  the 
rushes,  she  sobbed  herself  to  sleep  that  brought 

her  terrifying  dreams. 

26 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

The  heartlessness  of  Power  is  emphasised 
by  the  fact  that  before  the  marriage  took 
place  he  had  been  told  by  Farmer's  relatives 
that  the  latter  had  been  insane,  but  this  fact 
carefully  kept  from  Margaret  did  not  alter 
her  father's  plans.  News  of  the  intended 
marriage  becoming  known,  the  relatives  of  the 
family  and  neighbours  regarded  it  as  a  violence 
done  to  the  girl  and  an  act  of  tyranny  on  the  part 
of  her  father ;  but  the  increased  unpopularity 
with  which  he  was  regarded  only  made  him 
more  forcibly  resent  his  daughter's  tears.  As 
for  the  bridegroom  elect,  he  was  by  no  means 
to  be  put  from  his  purpose  by  the  shrinking 
repugnance  and  open  fear  shown  him  by  the 
child.  And  so  day  after  day  passed  bringing 
her  nearer  and  more  near  to  what  she  dreaded, 
until  cowed  into  submission,  and  by  bitter- 
ness of  suffering  made  temporarily  indifferent 
to  her  fate,  she  became  a  wife  at  the 
age  of  fifteen  years  and  six  months :  the 
marriage  being  celebrated  in  the  parish 
church  of  Clonmel,  'according  to  the  rites 

and    ceremonies    of    the     United    Church    of 

27 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

England  and  Ireland '  on  the  7th  of  March 
1804. 

The  result  of  this  union  may  readily  be 
anticipated ;  for  years  afterwards  its  brutality 
and  misery  impressed  her  mind.  Once  in 
speaking  of  this  time  she  told  a  friend  she 
had  not  been  long  under  her  husband's  roof 
when  it  became  evident  that  he  was  subject 
to  fits  of  insanity ;  that  '  he  frequently  treated 
her  with  personal  violence,  that  he  used  to 
strike  her  on  the  face,  pinch  her  till  her  arms 
were  black  and  blue,  lock  her  up  whenever 
he  went  abroad,  and  often  left  her  without 
food  till  she  felt  almost  famished.' 

His  insane  jealousy,  his  capricious  temper, 
and  arrogant  bearing,  made  life  a  long-con- 
tinued terror  during  the  three  months  which 
she  lived  with  him.  At  the  end  of  this  time 
his  regiment  was  ordered  to  the  Curragh  of 
Kildare,  when  summoning  such  spirit  as 
was  left  her,  she  refused  to  accompany  him. 
He  therefore  allowed  her  to  remove  to  her 
father's  house,  there  to  remain  for  the  present. 

It   happened  that  a   few  days  after  he  had 
28 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

reached  the  Curragh,  Farmer  had  an  argument 
with  his  colonel,  on  whom  in  a  moment  of 
frenzy  he  drew  his  sword.  This  act  being 
mercifully  set  down  to  insanity,  Farmer  was 
spared  a  trial  by  court-martial  and  its  conse- 
quences, and  allowed  to  sell  his  commission. 
His  friends  then  obtained  for  him  an  appoint- 
ment in  the  East  India  Company's  service. 

Before  starting  for  India  he  strove  to  per- 
suade his  wife  to  accompany  him  abroad, 
but  having  the  memory  of  recent  suffer- 
ings fresh  in  her  mind,  she  refused,  when  he 
did  her  the  service  of  taking  himself  out  of 
her  life  for  ever. 

And  in  this  way  ended  the  prelude  to  a 
career  whose  strange  surprises,  emotional 
episodes,  brilliant  success  and  tragic  ending, 
must  possess  a  seductive  charm  for  all  students 
of  life. 


29 


CHAPTER    I  I 

An  Unprotected  Wife — An  Unhappy  House — A 
Hateful  Position — Lord  Blessington  appeared 
upon  the  Scene— A  Tragedy  in  the  Fleet — 
Freedom  and  Marriage — An  Irish  Welcome 
The  Mansion  in  St  James's  Square. 

THE  return  of  Margaret  Farmer  to  her  father's 
home  was  made  unwelcome,  and  it  seemed 
as  if  her  unhappiness  was  destined  to  continue : 
for  her  parents  resented  as  they  might  a  re- 
proof, the  fact  of  her  marriage  having  turned 
out  miserably ;  and  instead  of  regarding  her 
as  its  victim,  treated  her  as  if  she  were 
responsible  for  its  wretchedness.  Not  only 
had  she  been  of  no  service  in  helping  to  marry 
her  sister  Ellen,  or  in  forwarding  the  fortunes 
of  her  family,  but  she  had  come  back  upon 
their  hands  a  burden. 

Her  father  behaved  towards  her  with  morose- 
30 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

ness,  her  mother  assumed  the  airs  of  a  martyr, 
and  her  only  comfort  was  in  her  brothers  and 
sisters,  who  pitied  her  as  openly  as  they 
dared  without  drawing  down  on  themselves 
the  fire  and  fury  of  the  head  of  the  house. 
As  the  cool  resentment  with  which  she  was 
at  first  received  gradually  wore  away,  it  was 
succeeded  by  a  more  active  hostility.  She 
was  now  referred  to  as  an  interloper,  whose 
experience  was  likely  to  interfere  with  her 
sister's  prospects  of  settlement. 

Her  sister  Ellen,  a  year  younger  than 
Margaret,  had  already  gained  much  admira- 
tion in  Clonmel  society  and  at  garrison 
balls,  and  was  regarded  by  her  parents  as 
the  beauty  of  the  family.  With  classically- 
cut  features,  a  pale  clear  complexion,  large 
calm  blue  eyes,  her  face  had  the  symmetry 
and  repose  of  statuary,  her  figure  was  ex- 
cessively graceful,  and  like  her  sister  she 
possessed  a  natural  air  of  refinement  and 
dignity.  So  far  as  regularity  and  modelling 
of  feature  went,  she  had  the  advantage  of 
her  elder  sister  :  but  the  latter  had  an  intelli- 
31 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

gence  and  piquancy  of  expression  that  gave 
her  a  fascination  which  Ellen,  cold  and  placid, 
entirely  lacked.  Her  youngest  sister  Mary 
Anne  was  then  a  child  of  about  eight. 

Even  at  this  time  Beau  Power,  who  every 
day  advanced  deeper  into  the  mire  of  debt, 
managed  to  keep  open  house ;  and  not  only 
entertained  the  officers  stationed  in  the  garrison, 
but  also  the  judges  and  lawyers  who  visited 
the  town  during  the  assizes.  Like  most  men 
who  are  tyrants  at  home,  he  could  be  bland 
and  amusing  abroad ;  and  he  readily  gathered 
round  his  table  men  willing  to  enjoy  his 
hospitality. 

Amongst  such  were  not  wanting  many  who 
ardently  admired  the  wife  of  sixteen  summers, 
beautiful,  intelligent,  and  unhappy,  whose  situa- 
tion, deprived  as  she  was  of  the  protection  of 
a  husband  or  the  care  of  a  father,  seemed  to 
make  way  for  their  advances.  Wherever  she 
went  she  was  pursued  by  suitors  who  sought 
to  take  her  from  her  father's  house.  Amongst 
them  was  a  man  of  fascinating  personality, 
wealthy,  and  connected  with  the  nobility,  whom 
32 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

she  had  learned  to  care  for  and  with  whom 
she  would  have  gone  had  she  not  heard  that 
he  was  married  ;  when  she  refused  to  destroy 
another  woman's  happiness  even  to  secure  her 
own. 

Another  suitor  was  Captain  Thomas  Jenkins 
of  the  nth  Light  Dragoons  whose  regiment 
was  stationed  in  the  neighbouring  town  of 
Tullow,  a  member  of  an  old  Hampshire  family, 
with  an  income  of  between  six  and  eight 
thousand  a  year,  amiable  and  generous,  who 
added  polished  manners  to  the  attraction  of 
a  handsome  person.  For  a  long  time  she 
refused  to  listen  to  his  proposals  and  would 
probably  have  continued  to  do  so,  had  not 
news  reached  her  that  Farmer  after  spending 
a  couple  of  years  abroad  during  which  he  had 
taken  to  drink,  had  now  left  the  East  India 
Company's  service,  and  was  on  his  way  home 
with  the  avowed  intention  of  forcing  her  to 
live  with  him. 

No  more  terrifying  prospect  could  be  placed 
before   her.       She  had   for   nearly  three   years 

suffered    in    silence    the   wretchedness    of    her 
VOL.  i.  33  c 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

humiliating  position  in  her  father's  home 
which  every  day  became  more  hateful  ;  but 
life  with  a  drunkard  and  a  lunatic  to  whom 
she  knew  her  parents  would  willingly  give  her 
up,  would  be  unendurable.  In  her  plight  she 
turned  for  advice  to  Major,  afterwards  Sir 
Edward  Blakeney,  then  on  duty  with  his 
regiment  in  Clonmel,  an  elderly,  kind-hearted, 
honourable  man  in  whose  friendship  she  trusted. 
As  the  result  of  her  consultation  with  him, 
she  left  her  father's  house  with  Captain  Jenkins 
whom,  without  loving,  she  esteemed  as  a 
friend,  when  he  took  her  to  live  in  Hamp- 
shire. 

The  position  which  seemed  forced  upon 
her  by  circumstances  was  odious  to  her, 
and  left  behind  it  a  memory  which  cloud- 
like  came  between  her  and  the  sun  of 
her  happiness  throughout  her  life.  Her  most 
earnest  efforts  were,  not  only  by  her  demeanour 
but  by  her  dress,  to  avoid  everything  which 
might  remind  her  or  others  of  her  situation  ; 
and  in  this  she  was  seconded  by  Captain 
Jenkins. 

34 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

No  greater  delicacy,  respect,  or  affection 
could  be  shown  her  were  she  his  wife ;  yet 
the  costly  presents  which  he  delighted  in 
lavishing  on  her  and  she  found  herself 
obliged  to  accept,  humiliated  her.  In  the 
meantime  her  position  was  perhaps  rendered 
less  trying  by  the  conduct  of  his  family :  for 
seeing  her  retiring  manners  and  the  good 
influence  she  exercised  over  him  in  preventing 
the  ruinous  extravagance  in  which  he  had 
formerly  indulged,  they  by  kindness  and  friend- 
ship treated  her  in  every  way  as  if  she  were 
his  wife. 

She  had  been  living  under  the  protection 
of  Captain  Jenkins  for  some  six  years 
when  Lord  Blessington  then  a  widower  came 
on  a  visit  to  the  latter  for  a  few  weeks  hunt- 
ing. The  Earl  was  not  unknown  to  Margaret 
Farmer  ;  for  soon  after  her  marriage,  the  Tyrone 
Militia,  whose  Lieutenant-Colonel  was  Vis- 
count Mountjoy  afterwards  Earl  of  Blessington, 
had  been  stationed  at  Clonmel ;  so  that  it  was 
in  Ireland  she  had  first  met  the  man  whose 
life  she  was  fated  to  influence,  whose  rank 
35 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

and  wealth  aided  her  beauty  and  talents  to 
exercise  the  brilliant  sway  they  were  later  to 
obtain. 

This  renewal  of  acquaintance  soon  led  to 
warmer  feelings  on  the  Earl's  part.  His 
admiration  of  Margaret  Farmer  gradually 
deepened,  until  at  last  he  offered  to  make 
her  his  wife,  contingent  on  her  obtaining  a 
divorce  from  her  husband :  he  meanwhile 
providing  her  with  a  home,  but  treating  her 
merely  as  one  to  whom  he  was  engaged. 
The  prospect  of  being  relieved  from  her 
present  position  which  time  had  not  helped 
to  render  less  humiliating,  and  of  becoming 
a  wife,  were  hailed  by  her  with  infinite  relief 
and  gratitude.  Her  feelings  underwent  no 
change  towards  Captain  Jenkins,  whom  with- 
out loving  she  had  liked.  He  had  now  to  be 
consulted ;  and  on  learning  Lord  Blessington's 
intentions,  set  aside  all  considerations  of  self 
which  would  interfere  with  her  chances  of 
happiness. 

Lord    Blessington    therefore    took    a    house 
in   Manchester    Square    London,    for  Margaret 
36 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Farmer,  who  lived  here  in  charge  of  her 
brother  Robert,  who  was  now  made  agent 
for  the  Blessington  estates.  And  no  sooner 
had  she  parted  from  Captain  Jenkins,  than 
Lord  Blessington  sent  him  a  cheque  for  ten 
thousand  pounds,  the  presumed  value  of  the 
jewels  and  apparel  given  by  Jenkins  to 
Margaret  Farmer,  which  he  accepted.  Before 
taking  up  her  residence  in  Manchester  Square 
it  had  been  stipulated  by  her  that  she  and 
the  Earl  should  live  apart  until  such  time  as 
her  divorce  could  be  obtained,  a  compact  which 
was  strictly  kept;  a  statement  made  on  the 
authority  of  Mr  Taggart,  a  friend  of  Lord 
Blessington  whom  he  represented  in  select- 
ing this  establishment. 

Before  the  divorce  was  obtained,  however 
death  had  freed  her.  On  Farmer's  return  from 
India  he  had  remained  in  London  where  he 
sought  the  society  of  those  not  calculated  to 
cure  his  love  of  drink.  In  October  1817  he 
obtained  an  appointment  in  the  service  of 
the  Spanish  Patriots,  and  before  quitting 
England  betook  himself  one  night  to  bid 
37 


THE  MOST  GOXGEOUS 

farewell  to  some  boon  companions  whose 
habits  had  brought  them  to  the  King's  Bench 
Prison.  In  those  days  prisoners  of  the  Fleet 
were  allowed  to  receive  and  to  entertain  their 
friends  in  what  fashion  they  pleased  so  long 
as  they  paid,  and  Captain  Farmer  had  been  a 
frequent  and  a  riotous  visitor  to  certain 
individuals  there  confined. 

On  the  occasion  of  this  his  last  visit,  the 
party  had  finished  four  quarts  of  rum  and  were 
all  drunk  when  Farmer  rose  to  leave.  He 
had  no  sooner  stated  his  intention  of  quitting 
them,  than  his  companionship  being  coveted 
by  his  friends,  they  locked  the  door  to  prevent 
his  departure.  Now  fearing  they  were  going 
to  keep  him  all  night  as  they  had  done  more 
than  once  before,  he  rushed  to  the  window 
which  he  threw  up,  and  threatened  to  jump 
out  if  they  did  not  set  him  free.  His  threat 
was  met  with  a  chorus  of  drunken  and  in- 
credulous laughter  which  set  this  valiant  man 
upon  his  mettle,  and  to  show  them  he  was 
ready  to  keep  his  word  he  scrambled  out 
upon  the  ledge  where  he  remained  arguing 
38 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

solemnly  with  the  merry  group  inside,  whose 
faces  flushed  by  drink  were  lighted  by  wax 
candles  standing  on  a  liquor-stained  table. 
Suddenly,  by  a  heedless  move  he  lost  his 
balance,  fell,  and  frantically  clutched  with 
nerveless  fingers  the  ledge  from  which  he 
hung  some  seconds,  his  wild  eyes  taking  their 
last  look  on  life  in  staring  at  the  awed  group 
within  ;  his  sobered  mind  realising  that  certain 
death  waited  him  in  the  darkness  yawning 
below. 

As  his  companions,  helpless  to  save  because 
of  their  muddled  brains  and  paralysed  limbs, 
still  looked,  they  saw  the  space  his  head  had 
filled,  suddenly  become  empty,  and  whilst 
holding  each  his  breath,  heard  a  sickening 
thud.  Then  all  was  still.  Farmer  in  whom 
when  found,  life  still  flickered,  was  carried 
to  the  Middlesex  Hospital  where  he  died 
next  day. 

There    was    now    nothing     to    prevent    the 

Earl's    marriage    with    the   woman  he    loved  ; 

a   marriage   which    four    months   later,  on    the 

1 6th  of  February    1818  took  place  by  special 

39 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

licence  at  the  Bryanston  Square  Church, 
when  Margaret  Farmer  became  Marguerite 
Countess  of  Blessington ;  and  in  this  manner 
was  raised  to  a  rank  she  was  in  all  ways  fitted 
to  fill,  and  gained  a  title  eventually  to  be 
associated  with  the  most  brilliant  circle  of 
her  day,  a  title  which  yet  conjures  up  a  host 
of  memorable  associations. 

Lady  Blessington  had  not  at  this  time 
reached  her  thirtieth  year,  and  the  joyous- 
ness  of  life  lay  before  her.  The  attractions 
of  her  youth  had  deepened  with  her  years ; 
education,  sorrow,  and  experience  had  united 
in  giving  her  mind  a  breadth  and  training 
which  her  face  expressed.  The  wistfulness 
of  her  eyes,  the  sweetness  of  her  smile,  the 
piquancy  of  her  features,  her  grace  of  move- 
ment, her  charm  of  manner,  and  the  melody 
of  her  voice  combined  to  make  her  a  fascinat- 
ing woman. 

The  man  who  loved  her  was  but  seven  years 

her  senior  and  like  herself  was  Irish  by  birth 

and  descent.      His  father   Viscount    Mountjoy 

and  Baron  Mountjoy  in  the  County  of  Tyrone 

40 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

had  been  a  well-known  figure  in  the  Irish 
parliament  where  he  had  warmly  advocated 
the  claims  of  Catholics  to  equality  of  legisla- 
tion ;  and  had  taken  an  active  part  in  the 
suppression  of  the  rebellion  of  1798  when  he 
was  shot  in  the  battle  of  New  Ross  at  the 
head  of  his  regiment.  At  the  age  of  seven- 
teen the  second  husband  of  Margaret  Farmer 
had  been  left  lord  of  himself  and  of  a  hand- 
some fortune  which  throughout  his  life  he 
endeavoured  to  spend  right  royally.  He  had 
been  educated  at  Eton  and  at  Christ  Church 
Oxford,  and  at  twenty-three  had  been  ap- 
pointed Lieutenant-Colonel  of  the  Tyrone 
Militia.  In  1809  he  was  elected  a  repre- 
sentative peer  for  Ireland,  and  two  years 
before  his  second  marriage,  had  been  advanced 
to  the  Earldom  of  Blessington. 

Loaded  with  wealth  and  honour  the  world 
was  a  sunny  place  in  his  sight :  young  and 
handsome  he  accepted  the  favours  it  offered 
him  and  enjoyed  its  pleasures  to  the  full. 
No  brighter  youth  danced  in  satin  breeches 
and  velvet  coat  at  Almacks ;  none  gayer 
41 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

gave  delicious  suppers  in  the  lamp-lit  bowers 
of  Vauxhall  Gardens.  Tall,  vigorous,  bright- 
eyed  and  winsome,  generous  to  extravagance 
and  sweet-natured,  he  was  caressed  by  all 
who  like  himself  loved  gaiety  and  seized  the 
sunshine  of  the  passing  hour. 

Byron  remembered  him  'in  all  the  glory 
of  gems  and  snuff-boxes,  and  uniforms  and 
theatricals,  sitting  to  Strolling  the  painter  to 
be  depicted  as  one  of  the  heroes  of  Agincourt.' 
For  theatricals  he  had  a  special  taste  and 
regarded  himself  as  an  accomplished  actor. 
Indeed  for  several  years  he  entertained  his 
friends  at  Mountjoy  Forest,  Tyrone,  for  three 
or  four  weeks  at  a  time  with  plays  performed 
in  a  spacious  theatre  he  had  built,  and  acted 
by  players  from  Dublin  and  London,  he  tak- 
ing prominent  parts  in  the  casts  :  his  house 
crowded  with  guests  who  were  overwhelmed 
with  the  most  lavish  hospitality.  In  London 
also  he  concerned  himself  with  the  drama, 
and  was  one  of  the  noblemen  who  assisted  at 
the  farewell  banquet  given  to  John  Philip 
Kemble  in  July  1817. 

42 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

As  Viscount  Mountjoy,  George  the  Fourth 
had  shown  him  the  favour  of  his  countenance, 
and  when  the  Viscount  became  an  Earl,  his 
Majesty  who  was  busy  in  trumping  up 
charges  against  his  Queen,  said  '  I  hope  I 
shall  find  in  Blessington  as  warm  a  friend 
as  I  found  in  Mountjoy '  to  which  the  new 
peer  replied  that  he  was  afraid  the  prosecu- 
tion of  her  Majesty  would  make  the  King 
unpopular,  and  that  he  never  could  be  the 
advocate  of  a  measure  that  might  lead  to 
recrimination. 

When  about  twenty-seven  years  old,  Lord 
Blessington  had  met  a  lady  named  Brown,  whose 
beauty  was  the  means  of  parting  her  from  her 
husband,  a  major  in  the  army.  Enthusiastic 
in  all  things  but  especially  in  love,  the 
gallant  carried  away  the  woman  who  charmed 
him,  buying  a  residence  for  her  at  Worthing 
and  another  in  Portman  Square.  She  bore 
him  two  children,  a  boy  and  a  girl,  before 
her  husband  was  considerate  enough  to  die, 
when  my  lord  made  her  my  lady,  in  gratitude 
for  which  she  bore  him  two  other  children 
43 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

also  a  girl  and  a  boy,  Lady  Harriet  Anne 
Frances  Gardiner,  and  the  Right  Hon.  Luke 
Wellington,  Viscount  Mountjoy. 

Soon  after  the  birth  of  this  legitimate 
heir,  the  mother  became  ill,  when  her  husband 
decided  to  take  her  to  France  with  the  hope 
of  benefiting  her  health.  They  had  not 
journeyed  further  than  St  Germains  when 
she  retired  from  life,  and  furnished  my  lord 
with  an  opportunity  of  indulging  his  theatrical 
tastes  by  providing  a  funeral  which  became 
the  talk  of  three  European  capitals  and  cost 
him  from  three  to  four  thousand  pounds. 
This  event  took  place  in  September  1814, 
and  three  years  and  five  months  later 
Lord  Blessington  married  Margaret  Farmer. 
In  the  beginning  of  his  career  the  Earl's 
income  was  thirty  thousand  a  year,  but  owing 
to  his  extravagant  habits  and  the  various 
encumbrances  charged  upon  the  estate,  it 
had  dwindled  to  between  twenty-three  and 
twenty-four  thousand  a  year  at  the  time  of 
his  second  marriage ;  a  splendid  fortune  in 
itself  for  the  daughter  of  a  ruined  squireen. 

44 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Soon  after  this  marriage  Lord  Blessington 
took  his  bride  to  Ireland  when  they  stayed 
at  Mountjoy  Forest.  Preparations  for  their 
visit  had  been  made ;  the  tenantry  who 
worshipped  a  landlord  who  never  had  evicted 
one  of  them  nor  allowed  them  to  be  distressed 
for  rent,  formed  themselves  into  a  lane  miles 
long,  to  hail  his  arrival  and  that  of  his  beau- 
tiful bride  ;  their  faces  lit  with  welcome,  their 
voices  ringing  blessings,  their  arms  out- 
stretched in  friendship  to  my  lady  and  my 
lord.  And  no  sooner  had  the  carriage  passed 
than  they  followed,  a  wild,  shouting,  gesticu- 
lating throng,  whose  hearts,  bounding  in 
the  joy  of  greeting  touched  the  hearts  of 
those  they  cheered  :  a  greeting  whose  accents 
sounded  with  old  familiar  sweetness  to  one 
of  those  who  heard. 

The  residence  which  they  were  to  occupy 
for  a  short  time  had  been  decorated  and 
furnished  anew,  with  what  extravagance  may 
be  imagined  when  it  is  stated  that  Lady 
Blessington  found  her  private  sitting-room 
'  hung  with  crimson  Genoa  silk  velvet,  trimmed 
45 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

with  gold  bullion  fringe,  and  all  the  furniture 
of  equal  richness — a  richness  that  was  only 
suited  to  a  state  room  in  a  palace.'  Mountjoy 
Forest  now  became  the  scene  of  the  most 
extravagant  hospitality.  Dinners,  balls,  parties 
followed  each  other  in  rapid  succession ;  every 
day  had  its  fresh  form  of  entertainment,  and 
neither  exertion  nor  wealth  was  spared  to 
mark  the  significance  of  the  bridal  visit.  But 
she  whom  it  was  intended  to  honour,  seems 
to  have  taken  little  enjoyment  in  this  con- 
tinual revel :  the  fact  being  that  the  country 
soon  bored  her,  though  not  so  much  as  its 
rough  -  hewn  deep  -  drinking  gentry,  whose 
hearts  were  honest  but  whose  manners  were 
unpolished :  who  though  in  some  cases  the 
descendants  of  native  princes,  were  in  most 
instances  illiterate. 

She  therefore  induced  her  husband  to  leave 
Ireland  much  sooner  than  he  had  intended, 
and  to  return  to  London  where  she  was  anxious 
to  begin  her  career  as  a  leader  of  society. 
The  house  she  had  formerly  occupied  in 

Manchester     Square    was     given     up     and    a 
46 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

mansion  rented  in  St  James's  Square  that  was 
fitted  up  with  all  the  magnificence  which  taste 
could  suggest  or  money  purchase. 

Lord  Blessington's  high  position,  varied 
tastes,  and  engaging  manners  had  made  him 
acquainted  with  the  most  distinguished  per- 
sonages in  London  ;  politicians,  writers,  states- 
men, poets,  and  travellers.  And  they  being 
made  welcome  to  a  palatial  home  where  they 
found  a  hostess  beautiful  and  accomplished, 
frankly  desirous  to  please,  willing  to  give 
homage  to  genius,  not  unwilling  to  receive 
praise,  quick  to  perceive  merit,  with  all  the 
tact  of  the  Celt,  gentle-voiced  and  charming, 
readily  came  again  and  again  bringing  others 
in  their  train  ;  until  by  degrees  the  mansion 
in  St  James's  Square  became  noted  as  a  centre 
where  the  most  brilliant  and  distinguished  men 
of  the  day  congregated  around  one  of  the 
most  fascinating  women  of  the  period. 

In    her    spacious  drawing-rooms   with    their 

frescoed  ceilings,  their  chandeliers  of  crystal  and 

silver,    their    priceless    pictures,    and    oriental 

embroideries,  and  their  general  air  of  splendour, 

47 


THE  MO^T  GORGEOUS 

Whigs  for  awhile  forgot  their  hatred  of  Tories, 
men  of  fashion  rubbed  shoulders  with  men  of 
letters,  and  royal  dukes  were  as  humble  subjects 
before  her  whom  nature  had  made  regal.  Here 
came  my  Lord  Palmerston  to  divest  himself 
of  the  cares  of  state  and  hear  John  Philip 
Kemble,  now  retired,  speak  of  his  past  glories  : 
here  Tom  Moore  related  to  his  hostess  the  last 
news  received  from  Byron,  her  meeting  with 
whom  was  later  on  to  form  an  episode  in  her 
life:  here  young  Lord  Castlereagh,  handsome, 
extravagant,  talented,  a  poet  and  a  traveller, 
gained  more  attention  than  his  gifts  alone  would 
have  obtained  for  him,  from  the  fact  that  he 
had  figured  in  a  romance  with  a  voluptuous 
Venetian  whose  husband  had  shot  him  through 
the  arm.  Sir  Thomas  Laurence  came  to  see 
her  whose  beauty  had  given  him  the  oppor- 
tunity of  painting  his  finest  portrait :  and 
with  him  his  brother  in  art  VVilkie,  Samuel 
Rogers,  banker  and  poet,  Earl  Russell, 
James  Scarlett  afterwards  Lord  Abinger,  Lord 
Brougham,  vehement  and  witty,  Jekyll,  and 
Erskine,  and  Earl  Grey  my  lady's  warm 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

admirer  and   devoted  friend,  besides  a  host  of 
others,  congregated  in  her  home. 

Amongst  literary  men  bidden  to  her  house 
were  Byron's  friend  the  Hon.  Douglas  Kinnaird, 
who  had  adapted  Fletcher's  comedy  '  The  Mer- 
chant of  Bruges '  which  was  produced  at 
Drury  Lane ;  William  Jerdan,  John  Gait,  and 
Dr  Samuel  Parr. 

William  Jerdan  was  then  an  author  of  re- 
pute having  published  a  number  of  novels 
and  was  moreover  editor  of  The  Literary 
Gazette,  a  journal  whose  praise  or  blame  made 
or  marred  a  book,  so  great  was  its  influence 
in  literary  circles.  Witty  and  wise  by  turns, 
he  was  always  warmly  welcomed  by  his 
hostess  and  became  her  frequent  guest.  '  The 
more  I  saw  and  knew  of  her'  he  wrote  years 
later  '  the  more  I  loved  her  kind  and  generous 
nature,  her  disposition  to  be  good  to  all,  her 
faithful  energy  to  serve  her  friends.  Full  of 
fine  taste,  intelligence,  and  imagination,  she 
was  indeed  a  lovable  woman  ;  and  by  a  wide 
circle  she  was  regarded  as  the  centre  of  a 
highly  intellectual  and  brilliant  society.' 

VOL.  I.  49  D 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

John  Gait  a  native  of  Ayrshire  who  has  been 
described  as  being  as  wise  as  a  sage  and  as 
simple  as  a  child,  equally  shrewd  and  credulous, 
as  eminently  practical  as  he  was  fancifully 
imaginative,  was  likewise  her  devoted  friend. 
He  had  begun  his  career  in  commerce  but 
launching  into  poetry  had  produced  tragedies 
which  were  pronounced  by  Sir  Walter  Scott 
'  the  worst  ever  seen.'  He  had  travelled  and  had 
become  acquainted  with  Lord  Byron  of  whom 
he  delighted  to  talk ;  and  his  powers  of  per- 
suasion may  be  estimated  when  it  is  stated 
that  he  induced  Colburn  to  issue  a  monthly 
publication  called  The  Rejected  Theatre  that 
contained  plays  refused  by  London  managers, 
whose  want  of  judgment  and  enterprise  were 
in  this  manner  cruelly  exposed  and  they 
brought  to  shame.  His  own  plays  of  course 
held  a  great  part  of  this  magazine,  which  it  is 
fair  to  state  survived  a  year.  What  perhaps 
gained  him  a  place  in  Lady  Blessington's 
drawing-room,  was  the  fact  that  he  had  soon 
after  her  marriage  made  a  genuine  success  by 
publishing  his  novel  The  Ayrshire  Legatees, 
50 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

which  first  ran  through  Blackwootfs  Magazine, 
and  so  exalted  him  that  he  boasted  that  his 
literary  resources  were  superior  to  Sir  Walter 
Scott,  with  whom  he  resolved  to  compete  in 
historical  fiction. 

A  more  remarkable  figure  was  Dr  Samuel 
Parr  who  appeared  at  her  receptions  in  a  full 
dress-suit  of  black  velvet,  a  powdered  wig 
covering  his  massive  head,  his  rugged  features 
lighted  by  piercing  eyes  which  he  boasted  he 
could  '  inflict '  on  those  he  wished  to  subdue. 
Dr  Parr  who  was  at  this  time  drawing  near 
his  eightieth  year  was  a  learned  scholar,  a 
prebend  of  St  Paul's,  a  rector,  an  author,  an 
ex  -  schoolmaster,  and  a  contributor  to  the 
British  Critic. 

When  a  schoolmaster  at  Stanmore  it  had 
been  his  custom  to  stalk  through  the  town  in 
a  dirty  striped  morning  -  gown ;  to  flog  his 
pupils  with  vigour ;  and  to  arrange  that  their 
fights  should  take  place  at  a  spot  where  he 
could  see  and  enjoy  them  from  his  study 
windows. 

In  1820  he  caused  a  sensation  by  entering  a 
51 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

solemn  protest  in  the  parish  prayer-book  against 
the  omission  from  the  liturgy  of  George 
the  Fourth's  injured  wife  Queen  Caroline. 
Moreover  he  visited  her  Majesty  and  was 
appointed  her  first  chaplain.  The  doctor  was 
an  ardent  lover  of  tobacco  and  smoked  his 
twenty  pipes  regularly  of  an  evening;  nay, 
during  intervals  of  the  services  he  conducted, 
he  used  to  retire  to  the  vestry  that  he  might 
enjoy  a  whiff:  but  on  being  introduced  to 
Lady  Blessington  he  vowed  he  would  sacrifice 
his  pipe  to  spend  an  evening  in  her  company, 
and  no  higher  estimate  of  the  pleasure  she 
afforded  him  could  he  give.  So  delighted 
was  he  with  her  graciousness,  and  so  impressed 
by  her  appearance,  that  from  the  period  of 
his  first  visit  he  styled  her  '  the  most  gorgeous 
Lady  Blessington '  a  phrase  that  passed  into 
common  use  amongst  her  friends. 

One  evening  some  three  years  after  her 
establishment  at  St  James's  Square,  the  groom 
of  the  chambers  announced  a  name  that  was 
unfamiliar,  and  there  entered  her  drawing- 
room,  brilliant  with  the  light  of  innumerable 
52 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

candles  and  voiceful  with  the  sound  of  a 
hundred  tongues,  a  young  Frenchman  then 
strange  to  her,  whose  history  was  sub- 
sequently to  become  intimately  interwoven 
with  her  own ;  whose  friendship,  keeping 
loyal,  sweetened  her  life  and  survived  her 
death.  He  had  been  brought  to  her  recep- 
tion by  his  brother-in-law  the  Comte  de 
Grammont  both  of  them  being  on  a  brief 
visit  to  London.  This  was  Count  Alfred 
D'Orsay  then  just  one  -  and  -  twenty,  a  de- 
scendant on  the  maternal  side  from  the  Kings 
of  Wurtemberg,  and  on  the  paternal  side 
from  one  of  the  most  ancient  families  in 
France.  His  singularly  handsome  appearance 
was  a  hereditary  gift,  his  father  known  in  his 
youth  as  Le  Beau  D'Orsay,  having  elicited 
from  Napoleon  the  remark  that  he  would  make 
an  admirable  model  for  Jupiter.  The  beauty 
of  Count  Alfred  D'Orsay's  person  was  en- 
hanced by  his  great  physical  strength :  more- 
over he  was  brilliant  as  a  conversationalist, 
soldierly  in  bearing,  a  lover  of  art,  skilled  in 
all  manly  exercises  and  elegant  in  his  attire ; 
53 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

one   in  fact   whom  nature  richly  endowed,  and 
whom   fate  deigned  to  figure  in  romance. 

At  an  early  age  he  had  entered  the  Garde 
de  Corps  of  the  restored  Bourbon  ;  he  had 
already  shown  great  skill  in  painting  ;  his 
modelling  was  later  to  bring  him  fame  as  a 
sculptor;  whilst  his  journal  kept  in  London 
was,  when  shown  to  Lord  Byron,  pronounced 
by  the  poet  '  a  very  extraordinary  production 
and  of  a  most  melancholy  truth  in  all  that 
regards  high  life  in  England.' 

With  the  courtly  manners  of  the  old  r/giine, 
with  an  ardent  admiration  for  women's  beauty, 
an  appreciation  for  talent,  endowed  with  a 
sunny  youth  regarding  whose  undefinable 
future  it  was  interesting  to  speculate,  he 
stood  before  Lady  Blessington  a  dazzling 
personality  in  a  crowd  where  all  were  brilliant. 
For  a  moment,  as  it  were,  the  circles  of  their 
lives  touched  to  part  for  the  present ;  for 
D'Orsay  was  soon  obliged  to  return  to  France  ; 
and  at  this  time  she  had  no  intention  of  tak- 
ing that  journey  which  was  destined  to  be- 
come so  eventful  in  her  career. 
54 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

With  the  change  in  her  fortunes  Lady 
Blessington  was  not  forgetful  of  her  family. 
Indeed  a  rich  generosity  was  a  distinguish- 
ing trait  amongst  her  many  fine  qualities. 
Long-expected  ruin  having  overtaken  her 
worthless  father,  he  with  his  wife  left  Clonmel 
and  settled  in  Dublin ;  and  they  having  no 
means  of  subsistence  were  supported  for  the 
remainder  of  their  lives  by  Lady  Blessington 
and  her  sister  Ellen.  The  latter  had  been 
invited  to  England  by  Margaret  before  her 
marriage  with  the  Earl,  and  had  become  the 
wife  of  John  Home  Purves,  son  of  a  Scotch 
baronet.  After  the  death  of  her  first  husband 
with  whom  she  did  not  live  happily,  she 
married  in  1828,  the  Right  Honourable  Charles 
Manners  Sutton,  son  of  the  Archbishop  of 
Canterbury,  and  for  eighteen  years  Speaker 
of  the  House  of  Commons  on  retiring 
from  which  office  he  received  a  pension  of 
four  thousand  a  year  and  was  raised  to  the 
peerage  as  Viscount  Canterbury. 

Her  second  and  youngest  sister  Mary  Anne 
styled  Marianne  by  the  Countess,  was  adopted 
55 


THE  MOST  GOXGEOUS 

and  educated  by  her,  and  eventually  married 
to  an  old  French  noble  the  Comte  St 
Marsault,  from  whom  she  soon  separated.  Her 
eldest  brother  Michael  had  got  a  commission, 
probably  through  Lady  Blessington's  interest, 
in  the  2nd  West  India  Regiment  and  died 
abroad  ;  whilst  her  second  and  youngest 
brother  Robert  was,  as  already  mentioned, 
agent  of  the  Blessington  estates. 

Four  years  after  her  marriage,  at  the  close 
of  the  summer  1822,  she  and  her  husband  re- 
solved to  leave  town  for  the  coming  winter  ; 
but  their  choice  of  residences  lay  far  apart,  he 
wishing  to  stay  in  Ireland  whilst  she  desired 
to  visit  Italy.  Whether  her  reluctance  to  live 
in  her  native  land  was  due  to  the  unpleasant- 
ness of  early  associations,  or  to  some  slight 
received  from  the  Earl's  sisters,  one  of  whom 
was  wife  of  the  Bishop  of  Ossery,  cannot  be 
said ;  but  the  fact  remains  she  never  visited 
Ireland  a  second  time  as  Countess  of  Blessing- 
ton.  Regarding  the  unwillingness  she  had 
expressed  to  take  up  her  residence  at  Mount- 
joy  Forest,  John  Gait  writes  to  her  at  some 
56 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

length,  in  a  letter  dated  July  27,  1822   which 
says : — 

'  MY  DEAR  MADAM, — On  Monday  evening  I 
was  so  distinctly  impressed  with  the  repug- 
nance which  your  ladyship  feels  at  the  idea 
of  going  to  Ireland,  that  I  entered  entirely 
into  your  feelings  ;  but  upon  reflection,  I  cannot 
recall  all  the  reasonableness  of  the  argument — 
a  circumstance  so  unusual  with  respect  to  your 
ladyship's  reasons  in  general,  that  I  am  led 
to  think  that  some  other  cause  at  the  moment 
must  have  tended  to  molest  you,  and  to  lend 
the  energy  of  its  effect  to  the  expressions  of 
your  reluctance.  For  I  have  often  remarked 
that  the  gnat's  bite,  or  a  momentary  accident, 
will  sometimes  change  the  whole  complexion 
of  the  mind  for  a  time.  But  even  though 
nothing  of  the  sort  had  happened,  the  scores 
and  hundreds,  amounting  to  thousands  of  the 
poor  Irish  in  quest  of  employment  whom  I 
have  met  on  the  road  and  seen  landing  here, 
and  the  jealousy  with  which  they  are  viewed 
by  the  common  people,  and  the  parochial 
burdens  which  they  may  occasion  in  the 

57 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

contemplation  of  the  best  of  the  community, 
many  of  whom  are  loud  in  their  reflections 
on  the  Irish  absentees,  all  combine  to  form 
such  a  strong  case  for  my  lord's  journey, 
that  nothing  but  the  apprehension  of  your 
ladyship's  indisposition  can  be  pled  against 
it.  The  journey,  however,  to  be  really  use- 
ful, should  be  one  of  observation  only,  and 
I  am  sure  you  will  easily  persuade  him  to 
make  it  so,  and  to  be  resolved  not  to  listen 
to  any  complaint  with  a  view  to  decision  in 
Ireland,  or  to  embark  in  any  new  undertak- 
ing. If  he  once  allow  himself  to  be  appealed 
to  on  the  spot,  he  must  of  necessity  become 
affected  by  local  circumstances  and  individual 
impartialities  by  which,  instead  of  doing  general 
good  (all  a  personage  of  his  rank  can  do), 
he  will  become  the  mere  administrator  of 
petty  relief,  which  in  their  effect  may  prove 
detrimental  to  higher  objects ;  and  were  he 
to  engage  in  new  undertakings — to  say  nothing 
of  pecuniary  considerations — his  thoughts  would 
become  occupied  with  projects  which,  of  every 
kind  of  favouritism,  is  the  most  fatal  to  the 
58 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

utility  of  a  public  character,  such  as  my 
lord  seems  now  fairly  set  in  to  become.  In 
speaking  thus,  I  address  you  more  as  an 
intellect  than  a  lady,  and  the  interest  I  take 
in  all  that  concerns  my  friends  must  be 
accepted  as  the  only  excuse  I  can  offer  for 
the  freedom. 

'  I  really  know  not  what  apology  to  make 
to  your  ladyship  for  all  this  impertinence;  but 
somehow,  since  I  have  had  the  honour  and 
pleasure  of  knowing  you  and  my  lord  so 
freely,  I  feel  as  if  we  were  old  friends ;  indeed, 
how  can  it  be  otherwise,  for  no  other  human 
beings,  unconnected  by  the  common  ties, 
have  ever  taken  half  so  much  interest  in 
at  once  adding  to  my  enjoyments  and  con- 
sideration. I  am  sensible  not  only  of  having 
acquired  a  vast  accession  of  what  the  world 
calls  advantages,  but  also  friends  who  seem 
to  understand  me,  and  that  too  at  a  period 
when  I  regarded  myself  as  in  some  degree 
quite  alone,  for  all  my  early  intimates  were 
dead.  Your  ladyship  must  therefore  submit 
to  endure  a  great  deal  more  than  perhaps  I 
59 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

ought  to  say  on  so  short  an  acquaintance : 
but  as  minds  never  grow  old,  and  frankness 
makes  up  at  once  the  intimacy  of  years,  I  find 
myself  warranted  to  say  that  I  am  almost  an 
ancient,  as  I  am  ever  your  ladyship's  faithful 
and  sincere  friend.' 

It  is  almost  needless  to  say  that  Lady 
Blessington's  wishes  were  carried  out  by  a 
husband  so  devoted  to  her ;  and  in  the  month 
of  August  1822  they  made  preparations 
to  leave  England  for  an  indefinite  period.  A 
journey  abroad  was  in  those  days  considered 
a  formidable  undertaking  especially  for  people 
of  rank  and  fashion,  who  took  with  them  their 
own  carriages  and  servants,  kitchen  utensils 
and  table  appointments,  not  to  speak  of  huge 
boxes  containing  their  wardrobes.  Before  quit- 
ting the  home  where  she  had  known  such 
splendour,  Lady  Blessington  tells  us,  that  she 
went  through  the  rooms  looking  at  the  pictures 
and  the  furniture  with  a  melancholy  feeling 
she  did  not  expect  to  experience  in  starting 
on  a  tour  to  which  she  had  long  looked 

forward.       Almost     at     the     moment     of    her 
60 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

departure  she  wished  she  were  not  going. 
'  What  changes,  what  dangers  may  come  be- 
fore I  sleep  again  beneath  this  roof.  Perhaps 
I  may  never — but  I  must  not  give  way  to  such 
sad  forebodings  '  she  writes  in  the  diary  she 
now  began  to  keep  :  and  she  adds  a  passage 
regarding  the  pain  she  felt  at  taking  leave 
of  friends  ;  for  '  even  those  whose  society 
afforded  little  pleasure,  assume  a  new  interest 
at  parting.' 

Leaving  London  on  the  25th  they  reached 
Calais  two  days  later,  having  made  the 
journey  in  an  overcrowded  packet  under 
gloomy  and  threatening  skies  that  lent  a 
leaden-green  colour  to  the  sea.  They  reached 
Paris  by  the  end  of  the  month ;  and  the 
following  day,  September  the  ist  was  her  birth- 
day, whose  recurrence,  she  writes,  is  enough  to 
produce  melancholy  recollections.  '  In  England 
I  should  experience  these  doleful  feelings,  but 
at  Paris  tristesse  and  sentimentality  would  be 
misplaced  ;  so  I  must  look  couleur  de  rose,  and 
receive  the  congratulations  of  my  friends  on 

adding  another  year  to  my  age;    a  subject  far 
61 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

from  meriting  congratulations  when  one  has 
passed  thirty.  Youth  is  like  health,  we  never 
value  the  possession  of  either  until  they  have 
begun  to  decline.' 

Whilst  in  Paris  they  met  Tommy  Moore 
whom  they  asked  to  dinner.  My  lady  thought 
the  dinners  at  the  hotel  execrable,  but  she 
detested  going  to  a  restaurant  as  was  even 
then  the  fashion  for  English  people  :  con- 
sequently she  preferred  a  bad  dinner  at  home, 
and  this  the  poet  was  invited  to  share,  though 
she  thought  it  unworthy  of  his  acceptance. 
'  A  mouth  that  utters  such  brilliant  things ' 
she  writes  '  should  only  be  fed  on  dainty 
ones  ;  and  as  his  skill  in  gastronomy  nearly 
equals  his  skill  in  poetry,  a  failure  in  one 
art  must  be  almost  as  trying  to  his  temper, 
as  the  necessity  of  reading  a  failure  in  the 
other  ;  nay  it  would  be  worse,  for  one  may 
laugh  at  a  bad  poem,  but  who  has  philosophy 
enough  to  laugh  at  a  bad  dinner?'  She  goes 
on  to  say  that  a  perfect  French  dinner  is  like 
the  conversation  of  a  highly-educated  man  ; 

enough  of  the  raciness  of  the  inherent  natural 
62 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

quality  remains  to  gratify  his  taste,  but 
rendered  more  attractive  by  the  manner  in 
which  it  is  presented. 

'  An  old  nobleman  used  to  say  that  he 
could  judge  of  a  man's  birth  by  the  dishes 
he  preferred,  but  above  all  by  the  vegetables  : 
truffles,  morels,  mushrooms,  and  peas  in 
their  infancy,  he  designated  as  aristocratic 
vegetables ;  but  all  the  vast  stock  of  beans, 
full-grown  peas,  carrots,  turnips,  parsnips, 
cauliflowers,  onions  etc.  he  said  were  only 
fit  for  the  vulgar.' 

Moore  spent  some  time  with  them  and 
took  the  Countess  to  La  Montagne  Russe, 
'  a  very  childish  but  exhilarating  amuse- 
ment' in  which  the  poet  frequently  indulged. 
She  thought  it  '  pleasant  to  observe  with  what 
a  true  zest  he  enters  into  every  scheme  of 
amusement,  though  the  buoyancy  of  his  spirits 
and  resources  of  his  mind  render  him  so  in- 
dependent of  such  means  of  passing  time. 
His  is  a  happy  temperament  that  conveys 
the  idea  of  having  never  outlived  the 
sunshine.' 

63 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

The  time  she  passed  in  a  Parisian  hotel 
does  not  seem  to  have  been  pleasant,  for 
the  indifference  of  foreign  ears  to  noise  was 
as  remarkable  then  as  now.  The  neighing 
of  horses  and  the  rumble  of  wheels  in  the 
courtyard,  the  swearing  of  coachmen  and 
the  grumbling  of  porters,  the  shrill  voices  of 
women,  the  singing  of  lacqueys,  the  talking 
of  a  parrot,  the  barking  of  a  dog,  and  the 
ringing  of  bells  prevented  her  from  sleeping. 
Then  her  own  servants  began  to  murmur 
at  what  they  considered  their  hardships  and 
to  sigh  for  the  fleshpots  of  England.  The 
maids  longed  for  their  tea  and  toast ;  the 
men  felt  the  loss  of  their  beef  and  beer.  '  I 
have  observed '  she  says  '  that  persons 
accustomed  from  infancy  to  the  utmost 
luxury,  can  better  submit  to  the  privations 
occasioned  by  travelling,  than  can  their 
servants.' 

She  was  not  sorry  to  leave  Paris  after  a 
stay  of  ten  days,  and  one  morning  the  court- 
yard was  full  of  their  carriages  which  were 

being  packed   anew.      A   crowd   of  valets  and 
64 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

footmen  were  hoisting  heavy  trunks  into  their 
places;  the  maids  had  their  arms  full  of 
cushions  and  books  for  my  lady's  special 
carriage ;  the  courier  went  to  and  fro  ex- 
amining the  springs ;  the  major  domo  saw 
that  the  plate  was  safely  stored  away  in  the 
chaise  seat.  In  the  'capacious  fourgon '  was 
already  packed  various  articles  considered 
indispensable  to  the  traveller,  such  as  a  patent 
brass  bed,  easy  chairs  and  sofas,  readily  folded, 
batteries  de  cuisine  for  the  benefit  of  the  cook 
who  accompanied  them,  and  cases  that  held 
'  delicate  chapeaux,  toques,  berets  and  bonnets 
too  fragile  to  bear  the  less  easy  motion  of 
leathern  band-boxes  crowning  imperials.'  No 
wonder  that  Lady  Blessington  waiting  in  her 
room  above,  heard  a  Frenchman  express  his 
wonder  at  the  strangeness  of  these  foreigners 
and  ask  if  all  these  coaches  and  this  luggage 
belonged  to  the  one  proprietor.  When 
answered  in  the  affirmative  he  remarked  '  One 
would  suppose  that  instead  of  a  single  family  a 
regiment  at  least  was  about  to  move.  How  many 
things  those  people  require  to  satisfy  them.' 

VOL.   I.  65  E 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

On  leaving  London  Lady  Blessington  had 
taken  with  her  Mary  Anne  Power  her 
youngest  sister;  and  having  met  Count  de 
D'Orsay  in  Paris,  they  invited  him  to  join 
them,  which  he  willingly  did,  but  not  until 
they  had  reached  Avignon.  A  pleasure-seeking 
party  they  travelled  with  leisurely  dignity 
through  Switzerland  and  the  South  of  France, 
engaging  in  some  places  a  whole  hotel  at  an 
exorbitant  price,  seeing  all  that  was  curious 
or  interesting,  and  scattering  money  with  a 
liberality  supposed  to  belong  to  royalty.  At 
Avignon  they  were  visited  by  the  poet 
laureate  of  the  town  who  presented  them  with 
a  congratulatory  ode  and  retired  from  their 
presence  happy  in  the  possession  of  a  dona- 
tion, leaving  them  wondering  if  as  he  stated, 
he  lived  on  his  wits,  how  he  could  exist  on 
so  slender  a  capital :  at  Nice  they  were  greeted 
by  school  children  dressed  in  their  holiday 
attire,  who  offered  them  bouquets ;  at  Aix 
they  received  on  leaving,  farewell  gifts  of 
orange-flower  water,  bonbons,  and  roses  ;  so 

that   their    tour    was    a    triumphant    progress 

66 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

such   as   would   be   impossible   in    these   later, 
more  prosaic  days  of  undignified  haste. 

The  diary  kept  by  Lady  Blessington  during 
her  travels  is  mainly  devoted  to  descriptions 
of,  and  comments  on  places  visited  and  sights 
that  impressed.  All  that  would  have  abounded 
with  interest  for  the  modern  reader — vignettes 
of  domestic  life,  etchings  of  herself  and  her 
companions,  touches  of  nature  which  lend 
human  interest  to  everyday  occurrences — are 
omitted  from  volumes  intented  for  the  public. 
The  pages  which  are  most  interesting  being 
those  in  which  she  describes  her  meeting  for 
the  first  time  with  Lord  Byron;  this  taking 
place  in  Genoa,  a  city  she  reached  after 
nearly  eight  months  of  travel. 


67 


CHAPTER    I  I  I 

Lord  Byron — A  Hero  of  Romance  and  an  Object  of 
Hatred — Storm  in  the  Social  Atmosphere — In 
Venice — The  Rosiest  Romance  of  His  Life — A 
Bride  of  Sixteen — Inexorable  Fate — In  Ravenna 
— A  Poet's  Love-Letter — A  Philosophic  Husband 
— Count  Guiccioli  becomes  Uncivil — Strife  and 
Separation — Byron  is  summoned — A  Common 
Disturber — In  Pisa — A  Ghost-Haunted  Palace — 
Banishment— A  New  Residence  sought — The 
Villa  at  Albero — Lady  Blessington's  Hopes — 
Lines  written  in  Her  Diary. 

AT  this  time  Lord  Byron,  as  a  poet  and  as 
a  man,  exercised  a  fascination  difficult  for 
later  generations  to  appreciate;  a  fascination 
due  to  the  brilliancy  of  his  genius,  to  the 
beauty  of  his  person,  to  the  mystery  and 
melancholy  with  which  he  endeavoured  to 
enwrap  himself,  and  to  the  reputation 
gained  for  the  extravagance  and  romance  of 
his  amours. 

The     descendant     of     'those      Byrons      of 

68 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Normandy  who  had  accompanied  William 
the  Conqueror  into  England,'  he  had  the  hot 
blood  of  adventurous  ancestors  in  his  veins: 
and  whilst  yet  a  youth  had  plunged  into  the 
lower  depths  of  life  from  which  he  had  re- 
turned saturated  with  a  cynicism  he  never 
failed  to  express.  Before  reaching  his 
majority  he  had  delighted  the  town  with  his 
Hours  of  Idleness  and  punished  his  critics  in 
English  Bards  and  Scotch  Reviewers;  after 
which,  chiefly  from  a  desire  to  escape  from 
the  solitude  that  even  at  so  early  a  period 
closed  around  his  inner  life, — that  solitude 
from  which  even  in  the  midst  of  crowds  the 
poet  is  sure  to  suffer — and  partly  to  dissipate 
the  restlessness  which  is  the  travailing  of 
genius,  he  had  travelled  through  Italy  and 
Spain  to  Turkey  and  Greece  at  a  time  when 
such  a  voyage  was  an  uncommon  occurrence. 

On  his  return  he  had  entered  society  for 
the  first  time.  A  peer  of  the  realm,  a  poet, 
satirist,  and  traveller,  dowered  with  the  fresh- 
ness and  the  grace  of  youth,  daring  in  his 

aspirations,   defiant   of  convention,   hating   the 
69 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

cant  that  encrusted  his  country,  he  stood  be- 
fore men  a  singular  and  unsolved  problem,  a 
genius  not  understood  of  his  kind;  one  whose 
personality  compelled  admiration,  indulgence 
in  which,  women  intuitively  recognised,  might 
lead  to  danger. 

The  years  that  followed  his  return  to 
England  saw  the  publication  of  poems  that 
with  their  metrical  sweep,  their  seething 
passion,  the  melancholy  sea-surge  and  fret  of 
their  moods,  their  bitter  sarcasm,  and  open 
cynicism  made  his  name  known  to  the  world. 
Then  came  the  fatal  mistake  of  his  life,  his 
marriage  with  Miss  Milbanke,  a  paragon  of 
perfection,  wholly  unfitted  for  and  unworthy 
of  the  human  nature  of  which  poets  are  made. 
This  event  took  place  on  the  2nd  of  January 
1815,  a  day  which  to  his  impressionable  mind 
was  burdened  by  melancholy  and  darkened 
by  presentiments  which  twelve  months  later 
were  verified  when  his  wife  parted  from  him 
for  ever.  In  December  she  had  given  birth 
to  a  daughter,  and  the  following  month  started 

from   London  to  visit  her  father  in   Leicester- 

70 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

shire,  taking  leave  of  Byron  with  the  utmost 
kindness,  and  on  the  understanding  that  he 
was  shortly  to  join  her.  On  her  way  she 
wrote  him  a  letter  full  of  affectionate  playful- 
ness :  but  soon  after  she  had  reached  her 
destination,  her  father  wrote  to  say  she  had 
resolved  never  to  return  to  her  husband. 

This  came  upon  Byron  as  a  shock  which 
the  embarrassments  of  his  fortunes  at  this 
time  did  not  help  him  to  bear.  Eventually 
all  efforts  of  his  at  reconciliation  being  re- 
jected, he  signed  a  deed  of  separation  which 
left  him  '  without  rational  hope  for  the  future.' 
This  was  but  the  beginning  of  a  period  of 
bitterness  which  was  to  last  through  his  life. 
A  storm  in  the  social  atmosphere  now  broke 
above  his  head,  such  as  perhaps  never  assailed 
unhappy  mortal  before.  Vague  hints,  dark 
insinuations,  charges  of  profligacy  and  mad- 
ness, swelled  an  overpowering  chorus  of 
accusation.  Those  envious  of  merit,  those 
who  wanting  in  virtue  hasten  to  assail  its 
violation  in  others  that  suspicion  may  be 
diverted  from  themselves ;  the  entertaining 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

society  scandalmonger,  the  caricaturist,  the 
vicious  paragraphist,  attacked  with  a  strength 
of  numbers  and  unity  of  force  there  was  no 
counting  or  combating. 

To  invite  him  to  her  house  was  an  act  of 
civility  for  which  few  hostesses  found  sufficient 
courage  :  to  defend  him  was  to  involve  the 
defender  in  a  suspicion  of  vileriess.  The 
charges  of  cant  against  his  countrymen,  his 
laughter  at  mediocrity,  the  scoffings  at  con- 
vention in  which  he  had  so  frequently  indulged, 
were  now  avenged :  the  gnats  stung  him  to 
desperation ;  and  three  months  after  his  wife 
had  left  him,  he  quitted  England,  never  more 
to  return. 

Whilst  in  Switzerland,  by  the  advice  of  his 
friend  Madame  de  Stael,  he  made  another 
effort  at  reconciliation,  which  like  the  first  was 
rejected  by  Lady  Byron.  Then  making  a 
tour  of  the  Bernese  Alps  he  entered  Italy,  a 
country  which,  because  of  the  colour  of  its  skies 
and  its  seas,  the  light  steeping  its  lands, 
the  pagan-heartedness  of  its  people,  beautiful 

in    themselves   and    worshippers   of   beauty   in 

72 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

nature,  had  already  thrown  its  fascination 
upon  him. 

He  took  up  his  residence  in  Venice  and  it 
was  whilst  living  in  this  city  of  the  sea,  in 
fair  spring  weather,  that  the  rosiest  romance 
in  his  life  was  begun ;  a  romance  which  the 
limit  of  his  days  was  not  destined  to  outrun : 
for  here  it  was  in  April  1819  that  he  met 
the  young  Countess  Guiccioli,  the  descendant  of 
an  ancient  and  historic  line,  and  the  third  wife 
of  a  wealthy  old  noble,  to  whom  at  the  age 
of  sixteen  her  parents  had  sacrificed  her. 

Looking  back  upon  their  meeting  with  the 
eyes  of  lovers,  it  seemed  to  the  poet  and  the 
Countess,  like  an  arrangement  of  inexorable 
fate.  Madame  Guiccioli  had  been  bidden  to 
a  party  by  the  Countess  Benzoni,  but  on  the 
evening  it  took  place  felt  so  fatigued  that 
she  wished  to  absent  herself,  and  it  was  only 
in  obedience  to  her  veteran  husband,  proud  of 
his  fair  child-wife,  that  she  reluctantly  con- 
sented to  be  present :  whilst  Byron  who  shrank 
from  appearing  in  crowds,  presented  himself 
in  this  out  of  mere  courtesy  to  the  hostess 
73 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

whose  friendship  he  valued.  When  requested 
by  her  to  allow  himself  to  be  introduced  to 
the  Countess  Guiccioli  he  at  first  declined, 
and  later  consented  that  he  might  not  seem 
uncivil.  In  this  way,  irrespective  of  their  own 
wills,  ignorant  of  what  it  would  entail,  was 
their  meeting  brought  about. 

From  the  first  each  read  in  the  eyes  of  the 
other  the  love  which  was  mutually  inspired ; 
the  love  which  later,  in  the  silent  water  ways 
of  this  dream-like  city,  beneath  the  shadows 
of  its  grey  arcades,  in  the  languorous  moon- 
light upon  balconies,  in  the  spacious  salons 
of  stately  palaces,  developed  with  frequent 
meeting :  the  secret  they  stored  in  their 
hearts,  the  more  sacred  for  concealment;  until 
at  last  the  consciousness  and  assurance  of  their 
absorbing  passion  set  their  lives  to  music 
which  their  pulses  marked,  and  made  the  world 
around  a  joy ;  they  most  joyous  of  all  beneath 
the  glamour  and  the  glory  of  Italian  skies. 

But  alas  for  their  love  this  day-dream  was 
not  of  long  continuance,  for  before  a  month 
ended,  a  month  which  to  them  was  but  a 
74 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

breath  in  the  mouth  of  time,  the  Count 
Guiccioli  decided  to  leave  Venice  and  return 
to  his  home  in  Ravenna.  The  idea  of  parting 
from  the  man  but  yesterday  a  stranger  and 
now  the  dearest  of  all  upon  earth  ;  he  who  by 
some  strange  power  revealed  her  to  herself 
and  woke  such  feelings  as  she  had  never  known 
her  nature  to  possess,  filled  her  with  despair; 
sickened  her  body  till  it  weakened,  and  made 
her  think  night  had  untimely  darkened  the 
dawn  of  her  day.  The  journey  however  was 
begun,  she  seated  pale  and  frail  a  wife  of 
sixteen  summers  beside  her  aged  spouse  in 
his  great  coach  covered  with  armorial  bear- 
ings and  drawn  by  six  horses,  and  during 
the  first  day's  journey  she  was  thrice  seized 
by  fainting  fits. 

She  found  strength  however  to  write  to 
the  poet  wherever  she  rested  on  her  route ; 
letters  full  of  the  fervent  love  that  was  burn- 
ing up  her  life.  In  one  of  these  she  tells 
him  that  the  solitude  of  the  place  which  before 
had  seemed  intolerable,  was  now  welcome  to 
her,  for  it  gave  her  more  opportunity  to 
75 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

dwell  on  the  one  object  which  occupied  her 
heart.  And  then  she  promises  to  obey  his 
wishes  in  avoiding  all  society,  and  to  devote 
herself  to  reading  and  music,  so  that  she  might 
please  him  in  every  way,  and  prove  worthy 
of  him  so  far  as  she  could  :  for  her  hope  lay 
in  their  meeting  once  more,  a  hope  without 
which  life  would  be  unbearable. 

The  day  after  writing  this  letter,  whilst 
making  the  final  stage  of  her  journey,  she 
was  attacked  by  an  illness  for  which  there 
was  no  name,  and  carried  to  her  home  half 
dead.  The  sensitive  nature  of  this  child  of 
the  south  gave  way  under  the  turbulence  of 
her  love ;  and  the  longing  which  tortured  her 
mind  brought  a  fever  which  consumed  her 
body  ;  relief  only  coming  when  his  letters 
reached  her  expressing  his  devotion  and  his 
determination  to  see  her. 

Towards  the  end  of  May  she  told  him  she 
had  prepared  all  her  friends  for  his  visit  which 
he  might  now  make,  and  accordingly  on  the 
second  of  June  he  set  out  from  La  Mira  where 

he   had   taken   a   summer    villa,    for    Ravenna. 
76 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Scarcely  had  he  entered  the  town  when 
rumours  that  an  English  lord  had  arrived, 
spread  abroad,  on  which  Count  Guiccioli 
suspecting  the  visitor's  personality,  hastened 
to  his  hotel  to  wait  upon  Byron  whom  he 
requested  to  call  upon  the  Countess. 

Bryon  willingly  obeyed  and  was  taken  to 
her  residence,  a  great  gloomy  palace  whose 
decay  but  added  to  its  grandeur,  whose  solemn 
and  melancholy  atmosphere  seemed  to  hold 
heavy  records  of  crime  and  mystery.  Mount- 
ing a  magnificent  staircase  of  white  marble 
he  was  led  to  the  woman  he  loved  who  lay 
in  bed,  from  which  her  anxious  relatives 
believed  she  would  never  rise.  His  pain  and 
grief  were  intense,  but  only  his  eyes  could 
tell  her  what  he  felt :  for  she  was  jealously 
guarded  by  the  members  of  her  family  who 
were  natives  of  Ravenna.  His  pen  however 
could  record  something  of  his  feelings,  and 
in  writing  to  his  friend  Murray  he  says  of 
her :  '  I  do  not  know  what  I  should  do  if 
she  died,  but  I  ought  to  blow  my  brains 
out — and  I  hope  that  I  should,'  whilst  to 
77 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Hoppner  he  expresses  his  fears  that  she  is 
going  into  a  consumption.  'Thus  it  is  with 
everything  and  everybody  for  whom  I  feel 
anything  like  a  real  attachment '  he  writes. 
' "  War,  death  or  discord  doth  lay  siege  to 
them."  I  never  could  keep  alive  a  dog  that  I 
liked  or  that  liked  me.' 

His  presence  beside  her,  the  affection  he 
showed  her,  did  more  to  restore  one  who, 
like  all  sensitive  and  impressionable  people, 
depended  on  the  happiness  of  her  mind  for 
the  health  of  her  body,  and  in  a  couple  of 
months  she  was  pronounced  convalescent. 

Byron  meanwhile  remained  in  Ravenna. 

This  ancient  town,  an  early  home  of 
Christian  art,  where  Dante  laid  him  down  to 
rest,  basks  in  the  wide-stretching  plain  of 
Lombardy  with  its  dense  pine  forest  dividing 
the  city  from  the  sea,  its  giant  poplars  skirt- 
ing dusty  roads,  its  groves  of  olives  with  their 
grey-green  leaves.  Its  sun-baked  palaces 
have  each  their  history,  darker  perhaps  than 
their  walls ;  its  innumerable  gardens  feast  the 

eyesight     with     their      gorgeous      colour :      its 

78 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

domed  cathedral  speaks  of  God  invisible  and 
omnipotent ;  its  gates  are  ancient,  grey,  and 
grass  grown  ;  and  its  atmosphere  is  rich  in 
dreamy  peace.  What  better  or  more  fitting 
place  for  love  to  flourish? 

With  these  it  grew  apace  until  the  Count 
in  his  wisdom  once  more  saw  fit  to  visit  his 
estates  and  take  his  young  wife  with  him  ; 
when  Byron,  impatient  and  wilful,  proposed 
that  she  should  fly  with  him.  Such  a  proposi- 
tion seemed  astonishing  to  the  mind  of  an 
Italian  wife ;  it  was  not  that  she  would  not 
sacrifice  everything  for  his  love,  but  she  con- 
sidered an  elopement  unnecessary.  Accord- 
ingly when  she  and  her  husband  went  to 
Bologna,  Byron  by  arrangement  followed  next 
day.  '  I  cannot  tell  how  our  romance  will 
end '  he  writes  '  but  it  hath  gone  on  hitherto 
most  erotically.  Such  perils  and  escapes. 
Juan's  are  as  child's  play  in  comparison.' 

Having  joined  his   friends   at  Bologna  they 

went  to  the  theatre  to  see  a  representation  of 

Alfierts  Mirra ;   when  a  scene  took   place   in 

their  box  :  for  Byron  then  in  an  excitable  con- 

79 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

dition  was  so  much  affected  by  the  play,  that 
he  was  thrown  into  convulsions  which  produced 
'  the  agony  of  reluctant  tears '  and  choking 
shudders,  witnessing  which  the  sympathetic 
Countess  became  similarly  affected.  Next  day 
both  were  'ill,  languid,  and  pathetic'  as  he 
narrates  :  nor  did  he  soon  recover. 

Having  spent  near  a  month  with  them  here, 
the  Count  went  on  to  his  Romagnese  estates 
taking  his  wife  with  him  but  leaving  her  friend 
behind.  This  parting  though  it  was  for  a  brief 
time,  filled  Byron  with  melancholy,  and  his 
greatest  pleasure  in  his  loneliness  was  to  visit 
her  empty  house  at  the  hour  when  formerly 
he  had  sought  her  there ;  to  cause  her  apart- 
ments to  be  opened  and  sit  in  them  reading 
her  books  and  writing  in  their  pages.  Then 
he  would  pass  into  the  quaint,  deserted  garden, 
where  he  walked  '  under  a  purple  canopy  of 
grapes'  or  sat  by  its  fountain  whose  ripple 
alone  disturbed  the  profound  stillness  of  the 
place.  Resting  here  one  summer  day  he  was 
so  overcome  by  the  pain  of  her  absence,  by  the 

weirdness  of  his  fancies,  by  nervous  fears,  and 

80 


desolate  forebodings  that  he  burst  into  a  passion 
of  tears  that  wrung  his  soul. 

Here  too  in  this  Italian  garden  with  its 
wilderness  of  roses  and  the  wealth  of  its 
perfumes,  he  wrote  one  of  the  most  touching 
love  letters  in  the  language,  on  the  last  page 
of  a  copy  of  Corinne,  belonging  to  the 
Countess. 

'MY  DEAREST  TERESA, — I  have  read  this 
book  in  your  garden — my  love,  you  were  absent, 
or  else  I  could  not  have  read  it.  It  is  a 
favourite  book  of  yours,  and  the  writer  was  a 
friend  of  mine.  You  will  not  understand  these 
English  words,  and  others  will  not  understand 
them — which  is  the  reason  I  have  not  scrawled 
them  in  Italian.  But  you  will  recognise  the 
handwriting  of  him  who  passionately  loved  you, 
and  you  will  divine  that,  over  a  book  which 
was  yours,  he  could  only  think  of  love.  In 
that  word  beautiful  in  all  languages  but  most 
so  in  yours — amor  mio — is  comprised  my  exist- 
ence here  and  hereafter.  I  feel  I  exist  here 
and  I  fear  that  I  shall  exist  hereafter — to  what 
purpose  you  will  decide :  my  destiny  rests 

VOL.   I.  8l  '         F 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

with  you,  and  you  are  a  woman  seventeen 
years  of  age,  and  two  out  of  a  convent.  I  wish 
you  had  stayed  there  with  all  my  heart — or  at 
least  that  I  had  never  met  you  in  your 
married  state. 

'  But  this  is  too  late.  I  love  you  and  you 
love  me,  at  least  you  say  so  and  act  as  if  you 
did  so,  which  last  is  a  great  consolation  in 
all  events.  But  I  more  than  love  you  and 
cannot  cease  to  love  you.  Think  of  me 
sometimes  when  the  Alps  and  the  ocean 
divide  us — but  they  never  will  unless  you 
wish  it/ 

A  few  weeks  after  this  was  written  Count 
Guiccioli  and  his  wife  returned  to  Bologna, 
but  they  had  not  been  there  long  when  the 
former  found  himself  called  to  Ravenna  on 
business  and  the  latter  discovered  that  illness 
prevented  her  from  accompanying  him.  He 
therefore  left  her  with  Byron  whose  happiness 
now  seemed  as  great  as  was  his  misery  before. 
And  the  time  of  their  joyousness  was  destined 
to  be  prolonged  ;  for  she  soon  concluded  that 

the  air  of  Ravenna  was  unsuited  to  her  health, 
82 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

which  would  soonest  return  to  her  in  Venice : 
to  which  effect  she  wrote  to  her  husband. 

That  philosophic  man  agreed  that  she 
should  once  more  visit  the  City  of  the  Sea 
and  that  Lord  Byron  should  be  the  com- 
panion of  her  voyage;  and  therefore  they  set 
out  for  the  place,  precious  to  them  as  the 
scene  where  first  they  had  met,  made  beauti- 
ful by  memories,  a  charmed  place  where  they 
were  free  to  live  the  dreams  they  once  had 
dreamt  there.  In  Venice  they  spent  the 
remaining  months  of  summer,  and  early  in 
autumn  they  removed  to  the  poet's  villa  at 
La  Mira. 

In  November  the  Count  came  to  Venice 
and  presented  his  spouse  with  a  paper  of  con- 
ditions, regulations  of  hours  and  conduct  and 
morals,  which  he  insisted  on  her  accepting 
.and  she  persisted  in  refusing.  '  I  am '  Byron 
writes  '  expressly  it  should  seem  excluded 
by  this  treaty,  as  an  indispensable  prelimin- 
ary :  so  that  they  are  in  high  discussion,  and 
what  the  result  may  be  I  know  not,  particu- 
larly as  they  are  consulting  friends.'  In  case 
83 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

that  she  finally  parted  with  her  husband, 
Byron  had  resolved  to  retire  with  her  to  France 
or  to  America,  where  under  a  changed  name 
he  would  lead  a  quiet,  provincial  life. 

After  a  considerable  struggle,  from  which 
Byron  held  apart,  the  Countess  reluctantly 
consented  to  return  to  Ravenna  with  her 
husband,  and  to  hold  no  further  communica- 
tion with  her  lover.  She  therefore  quitted 
Venice  where  Byron  remained  melancholy, 
ailing,  and  unable  to  make  up  his  mind  to 
visit  England.  The  promise  forced  from  the 
Countess  that  she  would  not  write  to  the 
poet  was  soon  broken,  and  ardent  letters 
passed  between  them. 

In  one  of  these  he  declares  that  his  state  is 
most  dreadful,  he  not  knowing  which  way  to 
decide — fearing  on  the  one  hand  to  com- 
promise her  by  returning  to  Ravenna,  and 
on  the  other  dreading  to  lose  all  happiness 
by  seeing  her  no  more.  '  I  pray  you,  I 
implore  you'  he  adds  'to  be  comforted,  and 
to  believe  that  I  cannot  cease  to  love  you  but 
with  my  life.  It  is  not  enough  that  I  must 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

leave  you,  it  is  not  enough  that  I  must  fly 
from  Italy  with  a  heart  deeply  wounded,  after 
having  passed  all  my  days  in  solitude  since 
your  departure,  sick  both  in  body  and  mind, 
but  I  must  also  have  to  endure  your  re- 
proaches without  answering  and  without  de- 
serving them.  Farewell ;  in  that  one  word 
is  comprised  the  death  of  my  happiness.' 

He  now  decided  on  returning  to  England 
and  the  day  of  his  departure  was  fixed.  When 
the  morning  came  on  which  he  was  to  leave 
Venice,  his  packed  boxes  were  taken  to  the 
gondola  at  his  palace  gate,  he  himself  was 
dressed  for  the  journey,  and  he  merely  waited 
for  his  firearms  to  be  made  ready.  Suddenly 
acting  on  a  presentiment,  he  declared  that  if 
all  were  not  in  order  before  the  clock  struck, 
he  would  not  start  that  day.  The  last  touches 
which  were  to  mark  his  departure  had  not 
been  given  when  the  clock  struck  one ;  his 
gondola  was  unloaded  and  he  never  more  saw 
the  country  for  which  he  had  been  about  to 
set  out. 

For  next  day  brought  him  a  letter  from 
85 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Count  Gamba,  father  of  the  Countess,  stating 
that  she  was  alarmingly  ill,  and  fearful  of  the 
consequences  of  opposition,  her  family  includ- 
ing her  husband,  entreated  Byron  to  hasten 
to  her :  the  letter  furthermore  promised  there 
should  be  no  more  scenes  between  husband 
and  wife  such  as  had  lately  disturbed  his 
lordship's  domestic  peace  in  Venice.  Immedi- 
ately he  answered  telling  the  Countess  he 
soon  would  be  beside  her  and  that  whether 
he  ever  left  her  again,  would  depend  upon 
herself. 

Arriving  at  Ravenna  he  took  up  his  residence 
at  a  hotel,  but  only  for  a  brief  time  until  the 
quarters  which  he  was  permitted  by  the  Count 
to  rent  at  the  Palazzo  Guiccioli  were  made 
ready.  Again  the  Countess  enlivened  by  his 
presence  rapidly  recovered,  and  she  was  seen 
in  his  company  everywhere.  '  Nobody  seemed 
surprised  ;  all  the  women  on  the  contrary  were, 
as  it  were,  delighted  with  the  excellent  ex- 
ample.' The  Count  however  after  some  six 
months  had  elapsed,  professed  to  become  un- 
easy :  rumours  of  separation  were  in  the  air ; 
86 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

cardinals  and  priests  were  implicated ;  public 
opinion  was  dead  against  him  for  causing  such 
a  disturbance ;  all  her  relations  were  furious  at 
his  want  of  civility,  and  her  father  challenged 
him  'a  superfluous  valour  for  he  don't  fight, 
though  suspected  of  two  assassinations.' 
Finally  Byron  was  warned  not  to  take  long 
rides  in  the  pine  forest  without  being  on  his 
guard. 

Eventually  on  a  petition  of  the  much-suffer- 
ing Countess  and  her  family,  a  decree  of 
separation  came  from  Rome  on  condition 
that  the  wife  should  henceforth  live  beneath 
her  father's  roof.  This  her  husband  had 
opposed  because  of  the  allowance  of  two 
hundred  a  year — a  miserable  sum  for  a  man 
of  his  wealth — which  the  same  decree  directed 
should  be  made  her :  and  at  the  last  moment 
he  would  have  forgiven  all,  if  she  had  consented 
never  again  to  see  Byron.  This  she  declined 
to  promise,  and  on  the  i6th  of  July  1820,  she 
betook  herself  to  her  father's  home,  situated 
some  fifteen  miles  from  Ravenna,  where  oc- 
casionally she  was  visited  by  the  poet 
87 


Now  in  this  year  Count  Gamba  and  his  son 
engaged  themselves  in  a  movement  for  the 
freedom  of  Italy,  and  induced  their  friend  Byron 
to  join  them  in  such  enterprise.  But  in  a  little 
while  suspicion  falling  on  them,  the  Govern- 
ment ordered  the  Count  to  quit  Ravenna  within 
twenty-four  hours,  whilst  the  son  was  arrested 
at  night  and  conveyed  to  the  frontier.  The 
Countess  was  now  in  despair,  her  nervous  fears 
suggesting  that  if  she  left  Ravenna  she  would 
see  her  lover  no  more  ;  and  her  fright  was 
heightened  when  news  was  brought  her  secretly 
that  her  husband  was  appealing  to  Rome  either 
to  have  her  sent  back  to  him,  or  to  have  her 
placed  in  a  convent. 

The  exile  of  the  Gambas  was  chiefly 
decreed  in  the  hope  that  Byron  would  share 
their  banishment ;  for  knowing  the  freedom 
of  his  opinions,  dreading  his  influence,  jealous 
of  his  popularity,  and  exaggerating  the  extent 
of,  his  means,  which  they  feared  might  be 
used  to  spread  liberalism,  the  Government 
had  long  desired  his  absence  from  Ravenna 
but  had  not  dared  to  force  the  departure 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

of  an  English  subject.  He  was  however  un- 
willing to  be  driven  from  a  city  he  liked  so 
well  ;  and  whilst  the  Countess,  her  father, 
and  her  brother  took  refuge  in  Florence,  he 
remained  in  Ravenna  striving  to  get  the 
decree  of  banishment  against  his  friends 
rescinded. 

Seeing  the  uselessness  of  his  efforts  he  re- 
solved to  join  them.  On  catching  news  of 
his  departure  the  poor  of  Ravenna  to  whom 
he  devoted  a  fourth  part  of  his  annual  income, 
gathering  together,  presented  a  petition  to  the 
cardinal  asking  him  to  request  Byron  to  re- 
main. The  place  of  the  future  residence  of 
the  Gamba  family  was  for  some  time  un- 
decided ;  the  Countess  and  her  brother 
selecting  Switzerland  where  they  would  be 
beyond  the  control  of  the  Roman  Government, 
Byron  suggesting  Tuscany,  for  he  never  could 
bear  the  Swiss  '  and  still  less  their  English 
visitors.'  Accordingly  in  August  1821  Count 
Gamba  took  a  spacious  palace  known  as  the 
Casa  Lanfranchi  in  Pisa.  Here  Byron  joined 
them  and  at  first  was  impressed  by  his  new 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

home,  a  noble  marble  pile  '  which  seemed  built 
for  eternity.'  Its  hall  was  enormous,  its 
grand  staircase  had  been  designed  by  Michael 
Angelo,  its  windows  looked  down  upon  the 
slow  sweeping  Arno.  But  soon  Byron's 
delight  was  disturbed  ;  and  he  writes  to 
Murray  that  it  had  dungeons  below,  cells  in 
the  walls,  and  was  full  of  ghosts,  by  whom  the 
last  occupants  had  been  sorely  bothered. 
Then  he  discovered  a  place  \vhere  people  had 
evidently  been  walled  up  ;  all  the  ears  in  the 
palace  had  been  regaled  by  all  kinds  of  super- 
natural noises,  and  his  valet  begged  leave  to 
change  his  room  and  then  refused  to  occupy 
his  new  apartment  because  there  were  more 
ghosts  there  than  in  the  other. 

Soon  more  material  troubles  beset  him. 
Whilst  riding  out  with  a  party  of  English 
and  Scotch,  they  had  a  brawl  with  a  soldier 
who  had  insulted  one  of  the  party,  some  of 
whom  were  arrested.  The  offending  soldier 
was  shortly  afterwards  stabbed  whilst  riding 
through  the  streets  by  one  of  his  own  country- 
men, presumably  a  partisan  of  Byron's,  and 
90 


LADY  8LESSING7VN 

though  the  wounded  man  recovered,  his 
friends  threatened  vengeance  with  the  dagger. 
The  affray  caused  a  sensation,  all  kinds  of 
investigations  were  made,  finally  the  Tuscan 
Government  thought  itself  called  upon  to 
interfere,  and  Count  Gamba  and  his  son  re- 
ceived notice  to  quit  Tuscany  within  four 
days. 

As  the  Countess  was  obliged  to  live  beneath 
her  father's  roof,  Byron's  removal  was  a  fore- 
gone conclusion. 

Again  the  scene  of  their  future  home  was 
discussed,  and  South  America  was  spoken  of 
as  a  fitting  place,  but  eventually  Genoa  was 
decided  upon,  and  here  they  settled  in 
September  1822  in  the  Casa  Saluzzi,  in 
a  suburb  of  the  city  named  Albaro:  Byron 
occupying  one  wing  of  the  palace  and  the 
Gamba  family  the  other. 

This  was  the  man  whom  Lady  Blessington 
earnestly  desired  to  meet ;  her  desire  not 
being  lessened  by  the  fear  that  he  who  in 
general  avoided  his  country  people,  might 
decline  to  become  acquainted  with  her. 
91 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Scarcely  had  she  reached  her  hotel  at  Genoa, 
the  Alberga  della  Villa,  than  taking  out  her 
diary  she  wrote  : — 

'  And  am  I  indeed  in  the  same  town  with 
Byron  ?  To-morrow  I  may  perhaps  behold 
him.  I  never  before  felt  the  same  impatient 
longing  to  see  anyone  known  to  me  only  by 
his  works.  I  hope  he  may  not  be  fat  as  Moore 
described  him ;  for  a  fat  poet  is  an  anomaly 
in  my  opinion.  Well  well,  to-morrow  I  may 
know  what  he  is  like,  and  now  to  bed  to  sleep 
away  the  fatigues  of  my  journey.' 


CHAPTER    IV 

Lord  Blessington  visits  Byron — The  Poet  and  the 
Countess — First  Impressions — -Personal  Appear- 
ance— His  English  Visitors — Reference  to  His 
Child — A  Pleasant  Talk — Flippant  Manner — 
Count  D'Orsay's  Diary — Dining  with  the  Bless- 
ingtons— His  Desire  to  grow  Thin — Death  of 
Lord  Blessington's  Heir— Lord  Byron's  Sym- 
pathy— His  Expedition  to  Greece — Melancholy 
Presentiments —  His  Superstitions  —  Impromptu 
Lines — Farewell. 

LITTLE  time  was  lost  in  surmise  as  to  whether 
Byron  would  be  gracious  to  the  Blessingtons,  or 
would  refuse  to  receive  them  as  he  had  already 
done  to  many  acquaintances  who  had  called 
on  him.  For  next  day,  a  bright  and  happy 
April  day  with  the  gladdening  of  spring  in 
the  sunny  air,  Lady  Blessington,  her  husband, 
her  sister,  and  Count  D'Orsay  drove  to- 
the  village  of  Albaro,  passing  through  Genoa, 
with  its  lively  crowds  of  sailors,  soldiers,  and 
93 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

civilians,  living  pictures  in  themselves  ;  its 
narrow  streets  and  tall  red-hued  houses ;  its 
magnificent  palaces,  spacious  and  sombre ;  its 
hanging  gardens  covering  and  crowning  its 
rocky  heights ;  and  the  sight  of  its  sea,  a 
flashing  of  blue  caught  in  the  winding  of  the 
ways. 

The  Earl  it  will  be  remembered  had  known 
Byron,  with  whom  he  was  not  only  desirous 
of  renewing  his  acquaintance,  but  to  whom  he 
was  anxious  to  introduce  his  wife.  The 
poet  was  at  this  time  in  his  thirty-sixth  year. 
On  arriving  at  the  gate  of  the  courtyard 
Lord  Blessington  and  Count  D'Orsay  sent  in 
their  names  and  were  immediately  admitted, 
when  they  received  a  cordial  reception  from 
Byron  who  expressed  himself  delighted  to  see 
a  former  friend  and  hoped  he  might  have 
the  pleasure  of  being  presented  to  Lady 
Blessington.  On  this  the  latter  said  that  she 
and  her  sister  were  in  the  carriage  at  the  gate. 

'  Byron  then '  as  the  Countess  writes  '  immedi- 
ately hurried  out  into  the  court,  and  I  who 
heard  the  sound  of  steps,  looked  through  the 

94 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

gate  and  beheld  him  approaching  quickly 
without  his  hat  and  considerably  in  advance 
of  the  other  two  gentlemen. 

"'You  must  have  thought  me  quite  as  ill- 
bred  and  savage  as  fame  reports"  said  Byron 
bowing  very  low  "  in  having  permitted  your 
ladyship  to  remain  a  quarter  of  an  hour  at 
my  gate ;  but  my  old  friend  Lord  Blessington 
is  to  blame,  for  I  only  heard  a  minute  ago 
that  I  was  so  highly  honoured.  I  shall  think 
you  do  not  pardon  this  apparent  rudeness 
unless  you  enter  my  abode,  which  I  entreat 
you  will  do  "  and  he  offered  his  hand  to  assist 
me  to  descend  from  the  carriage. 

'  In  the  vestibule  stood  his  chasseur  in  full 
uniform,  with  two  or  three  other  domestics, 
and  the  expression  of  surprise  visible  in  their 
countenances  evinced  that  they  were  not 
habituated  to  see  their  lord  display  so  much 
cordiality  to  visitors.' 

At  first   Lady  Blessington   felt  disappointed 

by   the   appearance    of    the   poet,   because    he 

was  unlike  the  ideal  she  had  imagined  of  the 

author  of    Manfred  and  Childe    Harold.      She 

95 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

had  expected  to  find  him  a  dignified,  cold, 
reserved,  and  haughty  individual,  resembling 
the  mysterious  personages  he  loved  to  paint 
in  his  works,  and  with  whom  he  has  been  so 
often  identified  by  the  world :  but  nothing  she 
considered  could  be  more  different  ;  '  for  were 
I  to  point  out  the  prominent  defect  of  Lord 
Byron,  I  should  say  it  was  flippancy  and  a 
total  want  of  that  natural  self-possession  and 
dignity  which  ought  to  characterise  a  man  of 
birth  and  education.'  On  reflection  however 
she  admitted  that  most  people  would  be  more 
than  satisfied  with  his  appearance  and  capti- 
vated by  his  manner ;  for  the  first  was  pre- 
possessing and  the  second  cordial. 

'  His  head '  she  writes  '  is  peculiarly  well- 
shaped,  the  forehead  high,  open,  and  highly 
indicative  of  intellectual  power;  his  eyes  are 
grey  and  expressive,  one  is  visibly  larger  than 
the  other ;  his  nose  looks  handsome  in  profile, 
but  in  front  is  somewhat  clumsy  ;  the  eyebrows 
are  well  defined  and  flexible  ;  the  mouth  is 
faultless,  the  upper  lip  being  of  Grecian  short- 
ness and  both  as  finely  chiselled,  to  use  an 
96 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

artist's  phrase,  as  those  of  an  antique  statue. 
There  is  a  scornful  expression  in  the  latter 
feature  that  does  not  deteriorate  from  its 
beauty.  His  chin  is  large  but  well-shaped 
and  not  at  all  fleshy,  and  finishes  well  his 
face,  which  is  of  an  oval  form.  His  hair  has 
already  much  of  silver  among  its  dark  brown 
curls ;  its  texture  is  very  silky,  and  although 
it  retreats  from  his  temples  leaving  his  fore- 
head very  bare,  its  growth  at  the  sides  and 
back  of  his  head  is  abundant. 

'  I  have  seldom  seen  finer  teeth  than  Lord 
Byron's,  and  never  a  smoother  or  more  fair 
skin,  for  though  very  pale,  his  is  not  the 
pallor  of  ill-health.  He  is  so  exceedingly 
thin  that  his  figure  has  an  almost  boyish  air ; 
and  yet  there  is  something  so  striking  in  his 
whole  appearance  that  could  not  be  mistaken 
for  an  ordinary  person.  I  do  not  think  that 
I  should  have  observed  his  lameness,  had  my 
attention  not  been  called  to  it  by  his  own 
visible  consciousness  of  this  infirmity  —  a 
consciousness  that  gives  a  gaucherte  to  his 
movements.' 

VOL.  I.  97  G 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

The  residence  of  the  poet  was  a  fine  old 
palace  commanding  a  wide  view  over  olive 
woods  and  vineyards  that  stretched  to  the 
bases  of  the  purple  Apennines.  The  saloon 
into  which  he  led  his  visitors  was  high- 
ceilinged,  spacious,  and  barely  furnished,  its 
windows  on  one  side  looking  into  the  court- 
yard and  on  the  other  into  a  stately  garden, 
with  orange  trees  and  cedars,  terraces  and 
fountains.  Into  this  somewhat  sombre  room 
Lady  Blessington,  her  expressive  face  bright 
with  smiles  of  triumph  and  gratification,  her 
exquisite  toilette  radiant  with  colour,  came  as 
a  glow  of  sunshine.  Her  host  showed  even- 
sign  of  enjoying  the  company  of  his  visitors. 

At  first  the  conversation  turned  on  mutual 
friends,  and  then  on  the  number  of  English 
people  who  pestered  him  with  visits,  though 
a  great  number  were  unknown  to  and  many 
of  them  but  slightly  acquainted  with  him.  He 
stated  that  he  steadily  refused  to  receive  any 
but  those  he  really  wished  to  see ;  as  for  the 
others  he  added  '  they  avenge  themselves  by 
attacking  me  in  every  sort  of  way,  and  there 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

is  no  story  too  improbable  for  the  craving 
appetites  of  our  slander-loving  countrymen.' 

On  the  walls  hung  a  small  portrait  of  his 
daughter  and  another  of  himself,  and  seeing 
Lady  Blessington  looking  attentively  at  the 
former,  he  took  it  from  its  place  and  handed 
it  to  her.  She  remarked  that  the  child  bore 
him  a  strong  resemblance  which  seemed  to 
gratify  him. 

'  I  am  told  she  is  clever '  he  said  '  but  I 
hope  not ;  and  above  all  I  hope  she  is  not 
poetical.  The  price  paid  for  such  advantages, 
if  advantages  they  be,  is  such  as  to  make 
me  pray  that  my  child  may  escape  them.' 

As  he  talked  to  her  and  her  party,  Lady 
Blessington  who  was  a  shrewd  observer,  had 
opportunities  of  noticing  various  characteristics 
of  the  poet.VHe  had  the  smallest  hands  she 
had  ever  seen  with  a  man,  finely-shaped,  deli- 
cately white,  the  nails  rose-coloured  and  highly 
polished  so  that  they  resembled  delicate  pink 
shells :  his  voice  was  clear  melodious  but 
somewhat  effeminate,  and  his  enunciation  so 
distinct  that  though  his  tone  was  low  pitched 
99 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

not  a  word  was  lost ;  whilst  his  laughter  was 
music  itself.  Finally  she  thought  he  owed 
less  to  his  clothes  than  any  man  of  her  ac- 
quaintance, they  being  not  only  old-fashioned 
but  ill-fitting,  )s 

When  she  proposed  to  end  her  visit  he  urged 
her  to  stay,  and  time  passed  pleasantly.  When 
eventually  she  rose  he  warmly  expressed  the 
gratification  the  visit  had  given  him,  and  Lady 
Blessington  states  that  she  did  not  doubt  his 
sincerity :  not  that  she  claimed  any  merit  to 
account  for  his  satisfaction,  but  that  she  saw 
he  liked  hearing  news  of  his  old  haunts  and 
associates  '  and  likes  also  to  pass  them  en  revue, 
pronouncing  en  passant  opinions  in  which  wit 
and  sly  sarcasm  are  more  obvious  than  good 
nature.  Yet'  she  adds  'he  does  not  give  me 
the  impression  that  he  is  ill-natured  or  mali- 
cious, even  whilst  uttering  remarks  that  imply 
the  presence  of  these  qualities.  It  appears 
to  me  that  they  proceed  from  a  reckless  levity 
of  disposition  that  renders  him  incapable  of 
checking  the  spirituels  but  sarcastic  sallies 
which  the  possession  of  a  very  uncommon 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

degree  of  shrewdness,  and  a  still  more  rare 
wit,  occasion :  and  seeing  how  he  amuses 
his  hearers,  he  cannot  resist  the  temptation, 
although  at  the  expense  of  many  whom  he 
proposes  to  like.' 

Neither  during  this  visit  nor  whilst  she 
remained  in  Genoa,  did  Lady  Blessington  see 
the  Countess  Guiccioli ;  of  whom  however 
Byron  in  his  subsequent  conversations  fre- 
quently spoke.  The  young  Italian  who  was 
wholly  devoted  to  the  poet,  led  a  life  of  re- 
tirement and  was  seldom  seen  outside  the 
grounds  of  the  Casa  Saluzzi. 

On  the  day  succeeding  the  visit  of  Lady 
Blessington  and  her  party  to  the  Casa  Saluzzi, 
Lord  Byron  presented  himself  at  their  hotel, 
first  sending  up  two  cards  in  an  envelope 
as  a  preliminary  to  his  entrance.  They  had 
just  finished  deje/iner,  but  the  earliness  of  his 
visit  did  not  hinder  his  welcome.  On  his 
part  the  poet  was  brighter  and  more  buoyant 
than  before. 

Lady  Blessington  told  him  that  as  early 
as  nine  that  morning  she  had  been  to  the 

101 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 
flower  market,  and  expressed  surprise  that  the 

| 

poorest  classes  bought  flowers  as  if  they  were 
the  necessaries  of  life,  when  Lord  Byron  fell 
to  praising  the  people  and  the  city,  enumerat- 
ing amongst  its  other  advantages  that  it 
contained  so  few  English  either  as  residents 
or  birds  of  passage.  And  as  during  their 
previous  meeting,  so  once  more  did  their 
conversation  turn  on  mutual  friends,  when 
Tom  Moore  amongst  others  was  discussed. 
Byron  spoke  more  warmly  of  the  Irish  bard's 
attractions  as  a  companion,  than  of  his  merits 
as  a  poet.  '  Lai  la  Rookh '  though  beautiful  was 
disappointing  to  Byron  who  considered  Moore 
would  go  down  to  posterity  because  of  his 
melodies  which  were  perfect ;  and  he  declared 
he  had  never  been  so  affected  as  on  hearing 
Moore  sing  one  of  them,  particularly  '  When 
first  I  met  thee'  which  he  said  made  him 
cry ;  adding  with  an  arch  glance  '  but  it  was 
after  I  had  drunk  a  certain  portion  of  very 
potent  white  brandy.' 

As    he   laid    particular   stress    on   the   word 
affected    Lady    Blessington     smiled,    when    he 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

asked  her  the  cause,  on  which  she  told  him 
the  story  of  a  lady  who  on  offering  her  con- 
dolence to  a  poor  Irishwoman  on  the  death 
of  her  child,  stated  that  she  had  never  been 
so  affected  in  her  life  :  on  hearing  which  the 
poor  woman,  who  knew  the  insincerity  of  the 
remark,  looked  up  and  said  '  Sure  thin  ma'am 
that's  saying  a  great  deal,  for  you  were 
always  affected.' 

All  present  laughed  at  this,  and  then  Lady 
Holland  was  brought  upon  the  board.  Lady 
Blessington  felt  surprised  by  his  flippancy 
in  talking  of  those  for  whom  he  expressed  a 
regard,  understanding  which  he  remarked 
laughingly  that  he  feared  he  should  lose  her 
good  opinion  by  his  frankness,  but  that  when 
the  fit  was  on  him  he  could  not  help  saying 
what  he  thought,  though  he  often  repented 
it  when  too  late. 

Throughout  his  conversation  he  continually 
censured  his  own  country.  His  friends  told 
him  Count  D'Orsay  had  during  his  visit  to 
London  kept  a  journal  in  which  he  dealt  freely 
with  the  follies  of  society.  This  interested 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Byron  much,  and  led  him  to  ask  permission 
to  read  the  manuscript,  which  D'Orsay  freely 
gave  him.  Throughout  this  visit  which  lasted 
for  two  hours,  he  said  very  little  of  his  own 
works  ;  and  Lady  Blessington  thought  he  had 
far  less  pretension  than  any  literary  man  of  her 
acquaintance,  and  not  the  slightest  shade  of 
pedantry. 

Before  leaving  he  promised  to  dine  with  them 
on  the  following  Thursday  ;  theirs  being,  as  he 
assured  them,  the  first  invitation  to  dinner  he 
had  accepted  for  two  years. 

On  returning  to  his  palazzo,  Byron  sat  down 
and  wrote  to  Moore  '  I  have  just  seen  some 
friends  of  yours  who  paid  me  a  visit  yesterday, 
which  in  honour  of  them  and  of  you,  I  returned 
to-day ;  as  I  reserve  my  bearskin  and  teeth,  and 
paws  and  claws  for  our  enemies.  .  .  .  Your  allies, 
whom  I  found  very  agreeable  personages,  are 
Milor  Blessington  and  cpouse,  travelling  with  a 
very  handsome  companion  in  the  shape  of  a 
'  French  count '  (to  use  Farquhar's  phrase  in 
the  '  Beau's  Stratagem  ')  who  has  all  the  air  of  a 

Cupidon  dechaine,  and  is  one  of  the  few  specimens 
104 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

I  have  seen  of  our  ideal  of  a  Frenchman  before 
the  Revolution — an  old  friend  with  a  new  face 
upon  whose  like  I  never  thought  that  we  should 
look  again.  Miladi  seems  highly  literary,  to 
which  and  your  honour's  acquaintance  with  the 
family  I  attribute  the  pleasure  of  having  seen 
them.  She  is  also  very  pretty,  even  in  a  morn- 
ing, a  species  of  beauty  on  which  the  sun  of 
Italy  does  not  shine  so  frequently  as  the 
chandelier.' 

Having  read  the  journal  of  Count  D'Orsay, 
in  whom  he  was  already  interested,  he  returned 
it  to  Lord  Blessington  remarking  that  it  was  '  a 
very  extraordinary  production  and  of  a  most 
melancholy  truth  in  all  that  regards  high  life 
in  England.' 

'  I  know '  he  continues  '  or  know  personally 
most  of  the  personages  and  societies  which  he 
describes  ;  and  after  reading  his  remarks  have 
the  sensation  fresh  upon  me  as  if  I  had  seen 
them  yesterday.  I  would  however  plead  in 
behalf  of  some  few  exceptions,  which  I  will 
mention  by-and-by.  The  most  singular  thing 
is,  how  he  should  have  penetrated  not  the  facts 


THE_  MOST  GORGEOUS 

but  the  mystery  of  English  ennui,  at  two-and- 
twenty.  I  was  about  the  same  age  when  I 
made  the  same  discovery  in  almost  precisely 
the  same  circles — for  there  is  scarcely  a  person 
whom  I  did  not  see  nightly  or  daily,  and  was 
acquainted  more  or  Mess  intimately  with  most 
of  them — but  I  never  could  have  discovered  it 
so  well,  II  faut  etre  Francais  to  effect  this. 

'  But  he  ought  also  to  have  been  in  the 
country  during  the  hunting  season,  with  M  a 
select  party  of  distinguished  guests "  as  the 
papers  term  it.  He  ought  to  have  seen  the 
gentlemen  after  dinner  (on  the  hunting  days) 
and  the  soiree  ensuing  thereupon — and  the 
women  looking  as  if  they  had  hunted,  or  rather 
been  hunted  :  and  I  could  have  wished  that  he 
had  been  at  a  dinner  in  town,  which  I  recollect 
at  Lord  Cowper's  small  but  select,  and  composed 
of  the  most  amusing  people. 

'  Altogether  your  friend's  journal  is  a  very  for- 
midable production.  Alas  our  dearly  beloved 
countrymen  have  only  discovered  that  they 
are  tired  and  not  that  they  are  tiresome :  and 

I  suspect  that  the  communication  of  the  latter 
1 06 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

unpleasant  verity  will  not  be  better  received 
than  truths  usually  are.  I  have  read  the  whole 
with  great  attention  and  instruction — I  am  too 
good  a  patriot  to  say  pleasure — at  least  I 
won't  say  so  whatever  I  may  think.' 

Now  the  fact  that  Byron  was  to  dine  with  the 
Blessingtons  on  a  certain  evening,  having  got 
noised  abroad  probably  through  the  servants, 
the  English  residents  in  the  Albergo  della  Villa 
and  other  hotels  assembled  in  the  courtyard, 
on  the  stairs,  and  in  the  corridors  to  see  him 
arrive  and  greet  him  with  a  stolid  British  stare. 
Fortunately  for  his  hosts  he  was  not  in  a 
humour  to  resent  this  intrusion,  but  appeared 
in  good  spirits  as  he  entered  their  salon,  for 
when  in  good  humour  he  set  down  the  stares 
and  comments  of  his  country-people  whenever 
they  met  him,  to  their  admiration ;  but  when 
worried  or  depressed  he  resented  them  as  im- 
pertinent curiosity,  caused  by  the  scandalous 
histories  he  believed  were  circulated  regarding 
him.  No  sooner  was  he  in  the  room  than  he 
began  to  talk  of  himself  though  not  of  his 

poems  :  his  animated  countenance  changing  its 

107 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

expression  with  the  subjects  that  excited  his 
feelings. 

Lady  Blessington  thought  it  strange  that  he 
should  speak  to  recent  acquaintances  with  such 
perfect  abandon  on  subjects  which  even  friends 
would  consider  too  delicate  for  discussion. 
His  family  affairs  were  debated  and  details 
given.  He  declared  he  was  in  ignorance  of 
why  his  wife  had  parted  from  him,  but  sus- 
pected it  was  through  the  ill  -  natured  inter- 
ference of  others,  and  that  he  had  left  no 
means  untried  to  effect  a  reconciliation.  He 
added  with  some  bitterness  that  a  day  would 
come  when  he  would  be  avenged,  for  '  I  feel ' 
he  said  'that  I  shall  not  live  long,  and  when 
the  grave  has  closed  over  me  what  must  she 
feel.' 

Afterwards  he  went  on  to  praise  the  mental 
and  personal  qualities  of  his  wife,  when 
Lady  Blessington  ventured  to  say  that  the  ap- 
preciation he  expressed  some\vhat  contradicted 
the  sarcasms  supposed  to  refer  to  Lady 
Byron  in  his  works.  At  this  the  poet  shook 

his  head  and  his  face  lighted  with  a  smile  as 
1 08 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

he  explained  that  what  he  had  written  was 
meant  to  spite  and  vrex  her  at  a  time  when 
he  was  wounded  and  irritated  at  her  refusing 
to  receive  or  answer  his  letters.  He  was  sorry 
for  what  he  had  penned  regarding  her,  but 
'notwithstanding  this  regret  and  all  his  good 
resolutions  to  avoid  similar  sins,  he  might 
on  renewed  provocation  recur  to  the  same 
vengeance,  though  he  allowed  it  was  petty 
and  unworthy  of  him.' 

In  all  his  conversations  this  singular  man 
whose  character  was  a  mass  of  contradictions, 
delighted  in  confessing  his  faults :  how  he  could 
bear  to  have  them  recognised  by  another, 
remained  to  be  proved.  Lady  Blessington 
shrewdly  enough  remarks  that  those  who  show 
the  greatest  frankness  in  admitting  their  errors, 
are  precisely  the  people  who  resent  their  detec- 
tion by  others.  She  did  not  think  Byron  in- 
.sincere  in  commenting  on  his  defects,  for  his 
perception  was  too  keen  to  leave  him  unaware  of 
them ;  and  his  desire  of  proving  his  perception 
was  too  great  not  to  give  proof  of  this  power 

by  self  analysis.     It  appeared  to  her  as  if  he 
109 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

were  more  ready  to  own  than  to  correct  his 
faults ;  and  that  he  considered  his  candour  in 
acknowledging  them  an  amende  honorable. 

'  There  is  an  indescribable  charm  to  me  at 
least '  she  writes  '  in  hearing  people  to  whom 
genius  of  the  highest  order  is  ascribed,  indulge 
in  egotistical  conversation  ;  more  especially 
when  they  are  free  from  affectation,  and  all  are 
more  or  less  so  when  talking  of  self,  a  subject 
on  which  they  speak  con  amore.  It  is  like 
reading  their  diaries  by  which  we  learn  more 
of  the  individuals  than  by  any  other  means.' 

At  dinner  that  evening  the  poet  was  in 
high  spirits  and  enjoyed  himself  heartily. 
Turning  to  his  hostess  he  hoped  she  was  not 
shocked  by  seeing  him  eating  so  much  'but 
the  truth  is  '  he  added  '  that  for  several  months 
I  have  been  following  a  most  abstemious  regime, 
living  almost  entirely  on  vegetables ;  and  now 
that  I  see  a  good  dinner  I  cannot  resist  tempta- 
tion, though  to-morrow  I  shall  suffer  for  my 
gourmandise  as  I  always  do  when  I  indulge  in 
luxuries.'  This  he  added  was  a  jour  de  fete 
when  he  would  eat,  drink,  and  make  merry. 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

The  scheme  of  living  which  he  followed 
consisted  not  only  in  dieting  himself  on  vege- 
tables, drinking  vinegar,  taking  medicine  in 
excess,  but  at  times  in  enduring  pangs  of 
hunger,  by  means  of  which  he  hoped  to 
master  a  natural  tendency  to  stoutness,  and 
by  keeping  thin  to  preserve  that  finer  outline 
of  face  and  symmetry  of  form  which  gave  in- 
terest to  his  appearance  and  youthfulness  to 
his  figure.  \ 

He  explained  to  his  friends  that  no  choice 
was  left  him  but  to  sacrifice  his  body  to  his 
mind :  that  if  he  lived  as  others,  he  would 
not  only  be  ill,  but  would  lose  his  intellectual 
faculties.  To  eat  animal  food,  he  argued,  was 
to  engender  animal  appetites ;  as  proof  of 
which  he  instanced  the  manner  in  which 
boxers  are  fed  :  whilst  to  live  on  fish  and 
vegetables  was  to  support  without  pamper- 
ing existence. 

He  took  evident  pride  in  arriving  at  a  result 
which  cost  him  so  much  pain ;  and  with  a 
boyish  air  would  ask  '  Don't  you  think  I  get 
thinner  ? '  or  again  '  Did  you  ever  see  anyone 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

so  thin  as  I  am  who  was  not  ill  ? '  One  day 
Lady  Blessington  assuming  a  grave  face  and 
a  serious  air  assured  him  she  believed  that 
his  living  so  continually  on  fish  resulted  in  his 
fondness  for  and  his  skill  in  swimming  ;  a 
theory  which  he  was  ready  to  admit,  and 
would  have  discoursed  on,  if,  unable  to  com- 
mand herself,  she  had  not  burst  out  laughing, 
a  proceeding  that  at  first  puzzled  him,  but  in 
which  he  joined  a  second  later  saying, — 

'  Well  Miladi,  after  this  hour  never  accuse 
me  any  more  of  mystifying :  you  did  take  me 
in  until  you  laughed.' 

This  desired  condition  of  thinness  was 
really  obtained  at  the  expense  of  his  health. 
He  obstinately  resisted  the  advice  of  medical 
men  and  friends,  who  assured  him  of  his 
folly  in  continuing  austerities  that  were 
certainly  undermining  his  constitution,  which 
would  have  no  power  of  recovery  if  once 
attacked  by  illness :  a  prediction  not  long 
afterwards  fulfilled. 

It  was  on  the  second  day  after  Byron  had 
dined  with  the  Blessingtons,  that  news  was 

112 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

brought  them  of  an  event  destined  to  in- 
fluence the  lives  of  two  at  least  of  the  party, 
though  unforeseen  by  them.  Lady  Blessington 
and  her  husband  were  in  the  salon  of  their 
hotel  when  they  saw  a  courier  covered 
with  dust  ride  into  the  courtyard.  A  pre- 
sentiment of  evil  seized  her,  as  she  relates, 
a  presentiment  which  was  verified  a  moment 
later  when  a  letter  was  handed  the  Earl 
stating  that  his  only  legitimate  son  and  heir, 
Viscount  Mountjoy  was  dead.  The  boy  then 
about  ten  years  old  had  been  ailing  for  some 
time ;  but  as  the  Countess  writes  '  although 
long  prepared  for  this  melancholy  event,  it 
has  fallen  on  us  as  heavily  as  if  we  counted 
on  his  days  being  lengthened.  Poor  dear 
Mountjoy,  he  expired  on  the  26th  of  March, 
and  Carlo  Forte  the  courier,  reached  this  from 
London  in  eight  days.  Well  may  it  be  said 
that  bad  news  travels  quickly.' 

This  intelligence  fell  like  a  shadow  on  the 
party  for  a  little  while,  during  which  Byron 
showed  the  greatest  kindness  and  feeling  to- 
wards Lord  Blessington.  '  There  is  a  gentle- 

VOL.    I.  113  H 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

ness  and  almost  womanly  softness  in  his 
manner  towards  him  that  is  peculiarly  pleas- 
ing to  witness '  Lady  Blessington  writes.  Her 
favourite  horse  Mameluke  having  arrived,  the 
whole  party  rode  to  Nervi  a  few  days  later, 
the  poet  acting  as  their  cicerone.  He  was 
neither  a  good  nor  a  bold  rider,  though  he 
had  much  pretensions  to  horsemanship  and 
when  mounted  must  have  presented  an  extra- 
ordinary figure ;  for  his  horse  was  covered 
with  trappings,  whilst  the  saddle  was  a  la 
hussarde,  its  holsters  bristling  with  pistols. 
The  rider  wore  nankeen  jacket  and  trousers 
a  trifle  shrunk  from  washing,  the  jacket  em- 
broidered, the  waist  short,  the  back  narrow, 
three  rows  of  buttons  in  front ;  a  black  satin 
stock  clasping  his  neck;  on  his  head  a  dark 
blue  velvet  cap  with  a  shade,  a  rich  gold 
tassel  hanging  from  the  crown :  nankeen 
gaiters,  and  a  pair  of  blue  spectacles. 

Knowing  Genoa  and  its  surroundings  he 
pointed  out  sites  of  surpassing  beauty,  but 
a  certain  indifference  he  exhibited  towards 

their   charm     surprised    Lady    Blessington,    on 
114 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

expressing  which  he  said  laughingly  '  I  sup- 
pose you  expected  me  to  explode  into  some 
enthusiastic  exclamations  on  the  sea,  the 
scenery  etc.,  such  as  poets  indulge  in,  or 
rather  are  supposed  to  indulge  in  ;  but  the 
truth  is  I  hate  cant  of  every  kind,  and  the 
cant  of  the  love  of  nature  as  much  as  any 
other.'  '  So '  she  comments  '  to  avoid  the 
appearance  of  one  affectation  he  assumes 
another,  that  of  not  admiring.' 

His  views  regarding  art  brought  her  greater 
surprise.  He  liked  music  without  knowing 
anything  of  it  as  a  science,  of  which  he  was 
glad,  as  he  feared  a  perfect  knowledge  would 
rob  music  of  half  its  charms.  '  At  present 
I  only  know '  he  said  '  that  a  plaintive  air 
softens,  and  a  lively  one  cheers  me.  Martial 
music  renders  me  brave,  and  voluptuous  music 
disposes  me  to  be  luxurious,  even  effeminate. 
Now  were  I  skilled  in  the  science  I  should 
become  fastidious ;  and  instead  of  yielding  to 
the  fascination  of  sweet  sounds,  I  should  be 
analysing,  or  criticising,  or  connoisseurshipising 
(to  use  a  word  oi  my  own  making)  instead 
"5 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

of  simply  enjoying  them  as  at  present.  In 
the  same  way  I  never  would  study  botany. 
1  don't  want  to  know  why  certain  flowers 
please  me ;  enough  for  me  that  they  do,  and 
I  leave  to  those  who  have  no  better  occupa- 
tion, the  analyses  of  the  sources  of  their 
pleasure,  which  I  can  enjoy  without  the  use- 
less trouble.' 

His  love  of  flowers  amounted  to  a  pas- 
sion, and  this  and  his  charity  were  two 
beautiful  traits  in  his  character ;  for  he  never 
refused  to  give  when  asked,  and  always  gave 
with  a  gentleness  and  kindness  that  en- 
hanced the  giving ;  so  that  the  poor  knew 
and  loved  him  and  came  to  him  in  their  needs 
and  sorrows.  Perfumes  also  had  a  strong 
effect  upon  him  and  as  he  said,  often  made 
him  quite  sentimental. 

Byron  seemed  as  delighted  with  the  com- 
panionship of  the  Blessingtons  as  they  were 
with  his,  and  he  was  continually  dining,  or 
riding  with  them,  writing  to  or  calling  on 
them,  or  sitting  for  his  portrait  to  D'Orsay 

in  their  salon,  and  this  close  association  enabled 
116 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

the  Countess  to  notice  many  traits  in  him 
before  unsuspected.  Now  he  comes  to  drink 
tea  with  her  after  dinner,  and  being  animated 
tells  stories  of  his  London  life,  gossips  about 
acquaintances  and  mimics  the  people  he  de- 
scribes, ridiculing  their  vanities  and  telling 
their  secrets.  He  delighted  in  hearing  what 
was  passing  in  the  world  of  fashion,  and 
his  correspondents  in  London  kept  him  au 
courant  of  its  scandals.  One  day  Lady 
Blessington  suggested  that  attention  to  such 
trifles  was  unworthy  of  a  mind  like  his,  when 
he  answered  that  the  trunk  of  an  elephant 
which  could  lift  a  great  weight  did  not  disdain 
a  small  one,  and  he  confessed  to  loving  a 
little  scandal  as  he  believed  all  English  people 
did. 

Another  day  he  calls  upon  her,  fuming  with 
indignation  because  of  an  attack  on  him,  first 
made  in  an  American  paper  and  afterwards 
copied  into  Galignani,  from  the  effects  of 
which  his  temper  did  not  recover  for  several 
days ;  for  never  was  man  so  sensitive  to  the 

censures  and  opinions  of  those  whom  he  neither 
117 


THE  MOST  GO  KG  EO  US 

knew  nor  respected  ;  whilst  at  the  same  time 
he  showed  a  want  of  perception  and  dis- 
regard to  the  feelings  of  others  ;  a  not 
uncommon  combination,  which  is  the  result 
of  egotism. 

Again  he  rides  out  with  her  and  speaks  of 
his  expedition  to  Greece,  and  jests  at  the 
intention  of  his  turning  soldier ;  but  his 
laughter  is  not  genuine  enough  to  cover  the 
seriousness  with  which  he  viewed  the  project. 
On  this  his  companion  held  out  the  hope 
that  he  would  return  full  of  glory  in  having 
fought  in  the  cause  of  freedom,  so  that  his 
country  would  feel  proud  of  him ;  but  at  that 
prospect  he  mournfully  shook  his  head,  say- 
ing he  had  more  than  once  dreamt  that  he 
would  die  in  Greece,  and  continually  had  a 
presentiment  that  such  would  be  the  case. 

Asked  why  he  did  not  then  give  up  all 
idea  of  the  expedition,  he  replied  that  he 
would  yield  himself  to  the  dictates  of  fate ; 
he  had  always  believed  his  life  would  not  be 
long ;  he  did  not  wish  to  live  to  old  age ; 

and  he  desired  to  rest  his  bones  in  a  country 
118 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

hallowed  by  the  recollections  of  youth  and 
dreams  of  happiness  never  realised. 

'  A  grassy  bed  in  Greece  and  a  grey  stone 
to  mark  the  spot '  he  said  '  would  please  me 
more  than  a  marble  tomb  in  Westminster 
Abbey,  an  honour  which  if  I  were  to  die  in 
England,  I  suppose  could  not  be  refused  to 
me :  for  though  my  compatriots  were  un- 
willing to  let  me  live  in  peace  in  the  land  of 
my  fathers,  they  would  not,  kind  souls,  object 
to  my  ashes  resting  in  peace  among  those  of 
the  poets  of  my  country.' 

Poor  Byron,  though  he  made  immense 
allowances  for  the  hypocrisy,  narrowness, 
and  uncharitableness  of  his  countrymen,  he 
failed  to  foresee  the  fierceness  of  a  chastity 
that  denied  to  his  bust  a  niche  in  the  Abbey. 

Not  only  did  he  believe  in  fate,  but  he  placed 
faith  in  supernatural  appearances,  in  lucky 
and  unlucky  days,  would  never  undertake  any 
act  of  importance  on  Fridays,  and  had  the 
greatest  horror  of  letting  bread  fall,  spilling 
salt,  or  breaking  mirrors.  Whenever  he  spoke 

of  ghosts  as  he  was  fond  of  doing,  '  he  assumes,' 
119 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

as  Lady  Blessington  writes  '  a  grave  and 
mysterious  air,  and  he  has  told  me  some 
extraordinary  stories  relative  to  Mr  Shelley 
who,  he  assures  me,  had  an  implicit  belief  in 
ghosts.'  The  fact  that  she  did  not  share  his 
belief  in  the  supernatural,  seemed  to  offend 
him,  and  he  said  that  she  must  therefore 
believe  herself  wiser  than  he,  'and  he  left  me' 
she  tells  us  'evidently  displeased  at  my  want 
of  superstition.' 

One  delicious  evening  in  May  when  the 
blue  of  the  sea  and  the  balm  of  its  breath 
tempted  the  Blessingtons  to  set  out  on  a 
boating  excursion,  Byron  felt  inclined  to 
accept  their  invitation  to  accompany  them, 
'  but  when  we  were  about  to  embark '  narrates 
Lady  Blessington  '  a  superstitious  presentiment 
induced  him  to  give  up  the  water  party, 
which  set  us  all  laughing  at  him,  which  he 
bore  very  well,  although  he  half  smiled  and 
said  "  No,  no,  good  folk,  you  shall  not  laugh 
me  out  of  my  superstition,  even  though  you 
may  think  me  a  fool  for  it." ' 

Two    days    later    he    wrote   her   a   note    in 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

which  occurs  the  sentence  '  I  did  well  to 
avoid  the  water  party — why  is  a  mystery 
which  is  not  less  to  be  wondered  at  than  all 
my  other  mysteries.' 

After  a  stay  of  about  six  weeks  in  Genoa 
the  Blessingtons,  having  seen  all  the  city  and 
its  environs  had  to  show,  began  to  make  pre- 
parations to  resume  their  journey  which  they 
now  decided  was  to  end  in  Naples.  The 
prospect  of  losing  such  pleasant  neighbours 
and  friends  was  displeasing  to  Byron  who 
warmly  urged  them  to  remain  until  he  had 
started  for  Greece.  The  force  and  frequency 
with  which  he  returned  to  the  subject  was 
flattering,  and  the  pouting  sulkiness,  like  a 
child  crossed  in  a  whim,  with  which  he  resented 
their  refusal,  was  amusing.  His  displeasure 
increasing,  he  declared  he  would  never  dine 
with  them  again  at  their  hotel,  now  he  saw 
how  little  disposed  they  were  to  gratify 
him ;  when  his  hostess  with  some  dignity 
declared  that  had  she  known  his  dining 
with  them  was  considered  a  sacrifice  by  him, 
she  never  would  have  invited  him  ;  on  which 

121 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

reproof    he    seemed    a    little    ashamed    of   his 
petulance. 

Then  he  took  them  to  see  an  extremely 
picturesque  but  slightly  dilapidated  villa  named 
II  Paradiso,  situated  near  his  own  palace, 
which  he  suggested  they  should  rent.  Lady 
Blessington  admired  it  greatly,  when  the  poet 
taking  a  pencil  wrote  the  following  lines  : — 

'  Beneath  Blessington's  eyes 

The  reclaimed  paradise 
Should  be  free  as  the  former  from  evil  ; 

But  if  the  new  Eve 

For  an  apple  should  grieve, 
What  mortal  would  not  play  the  devil  ?' 

Handing  her  this  he  said  '  In  future  times 
people  will  come  to  see  II  Paradiso  where 
Byron  wrote  an  impromptu  on  his  country- 
woman ;  thus  our  names  will  be  associated 
when  we  have  long  ceased  to  exist.'  To  this 
Lady  Blessington  added  in  her  diary  'And 
heaven  only  knows  to  how  many  commentaries 
so  simple  an  incident  may  hereafter  give 
rise.' 

Eventually   the   Blessingtons  decided  not  to 


LADY  BLESS1NGTON 

take  the  villa,  and  the  day  of  their  departure 
from  Genoa  was  fixed.  Byron,  who  foresaw 
how  much  he  should  miss  their  pleasant  com- 
pany, became  graver  in  his  manner  and  con- 
tinually dwelt  on  his  journey  to  Greece.  If 
he  outlived  the  campaign,  he  declared  he 
would  write  two  poems  on  the  subject,  one  an 
epic  and  the  other  a  burlesque  in  which  none 
would  be  spared,  himself  least  of  all :  for  if 
he  took  liberties  with  them  he  took  greater 
freedoms  with  himself,  and  he  thought  they 
ought  to  bear  with  him  out  of  consideration 
for  his  impartiality. 

This  he  said  when  making  one  of  those 
efforts  at  gaiety  that  only  showed  more  clearly 
the  underlying  sadness  with  which  he  viewed 
his  projected  expedition.  '  I  have  made  as 
many  sacrifices  to  liberty'  he  remarked  one 
day  'as  most  people  of  my  age,  and  the  one 
I  am  about  to  undertake  is  not  the  least, 
though  probably  it  will  be  the  last :  for  with 
my  broken  health  and  the  chances  of  war, 
Greece  will  most  likely  terminate  my  mortal 
career.  I  like  Italy,  its  climate,  its  customs, 
123 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

and  above  all  its  freedom  from  cant  of  every 
kind,  which  is  the  primum  mobile  of  England  ; 
therefore  it  is  no  slight  sacrifice  of  comfort  to 
give  up  the  tranquil  life  I  lead  here,  and  break 
through  the  ties  I  have  formed,  to  engage  in 
a  cause  for  the  successful  result  of  which  I 
have  no  very  sanguine  hopes.' 

And  then  he  added  that  though  he  feared 
his  hearer  might  think  him  more  superstitious 
than  ever,  he  would  repeat  that  he  had  a  pre- 
sentiment he  should  die  in  Greece.  '  I  hope 
it  may  be  in  action'  he  continued,  'for  that 
would  be  a  good  finish  to  a  very  triste  exist- 
ence, and  I  have  a  horror  of  death-bed  scenes  ; 
but  as  I  have  not  been  famous  for  my  luck 
in  life,  most  probably  I  shall  not  have  more 
in  the  manner  of  my  death,  and  I  may  draw 
my  last  sigh,  not  on  the  field  of  glory,  but  on 
the  bed  of  disease.  I  very  nearly  died  when 
I  was  in  Greece  in  my  youth ;  perhaps  as  things 
have  turned  out  it  would  have  been  well  if  I 
had  ;  I  should  have  lost  nothing  and  the  world 
very  little,  and  I  should  have  escaped  many 

cares,  for  God    knows    I    have  had  enough  of 
124 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

one  kind  or  another :  but  I  am  getting  gloomy? 
and  looking  either  back  or  forward  is  not 
calculated  to  enliven  me.  One  of  the  reasons 
why  I  quiz  my  friends  in  conversation  is,  that 
it  keeps  me  from  thinking  of  myself.' 

As  the  days  passed  he  frequently  expressed 
a  wish  to  return  to  England,  if  only  for  a  few 
weeks,  before  departing  for  Greece ;  but  though 
he  was  lord  of  himself  in   all  ways,  he  never, 
from    want   of  firmness   of  determination,   put 
this   desire   into   effect.     His    principal    reason 
for    wishing   to   visit   his    native   land   was   to 
hold  his  little  daughter  for  once  in  his  arms, 
and  if  possible  to  see   and   become  reconciled 
to  his  wife,  who  had  refused  all  explanation  of 
the    cause    of    her    separation    from    him,    all 
attempt    at    reconciliation,   who   had    returned 
his   letters   unopened,  and    who   had  remained 
silent    whilst    his    enemies    attributed    various 
and   contradictory   phases   of  vileness   to  him. 
That   which   influenced   him    most  in  prevent- 
ing  him  from   visiting    England   was  the  fear 
that    his    wife    would    continue    her    heartless 
conduct    towards    him,   that    his    child   would 
125 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

be  prevented  from  seeing  him,  and  that  any 
step  his  affection  might  prompt  him  to  take 
in  asserting  his  right  to  see  her,  would  be 
misrepresented  as  an  act  of  barbarous  tyranny 
and  persecution  towards  mother  and  child, 
when  he  would  be  driven  from  England  more 
vilified  and  with  greater  ignominy  than  on  his 
separation. 

'  Such  is  my  idea  of  the  justice  of  public 
opinion  in  England '  he  said  '  and  with  such 
woeful  experiences  as  I  have  had,  can  you 
wonder  that  I  dare  not  encounter  the  annoy- 
ances I  have  detailed.  But  if  I  live  and 
return  from  Greece  with  something  better 
and  higher  than  the  reputation  or  glory  of  a 
poet,  opinions  may  change,  as  the  successful 
are  always  judged  favourably  of  in  our 
country :  my  laurels  may  cover  my  faults 
better  than  the  bays  have  done,  and  give  a 
totally  different  reading  to  my  thoughts, 
words,  and  actions.' 

Before  his  friends  left  he  wished  to  buy 
Lady  Blessington's  favourite  horse  Mameluke ; 

and    to   sell    his    yacht    to    Lord    Blessington. 
126 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

On  first  seeing  Mameluke,  Byron  had  ex- 
pressed great  admiration  for  him.  Thinking 
him  a  docile  easily-managed  beast,  he  had 
asked  innumerable  questions  about  him,  and 
subsequently  requested  as  a  favour  that  his 
owner  would  sell  him ;  the  poet  stating  he 
would  take  Mameluke  to  Greece,  for  with 
so  steady  a  charger  he  would  feel  confidence 
in  action,  and  that  he  would  never  part  with 
him. 

Lady  Blessington  who  was  fond  of  all  animals, 
was  much  attached  to  this  horse,  and  was  re- 
luctant to  sell  him :  she  knew  moreover  she 
would  have  great  difficulty  in  replacing  him : 
yet  her  good  nature  prompting  her,  she  con- 
sented to  Byron's  frequent  entreaties  and 
agreed  to  part  with  Mameluke. 

The  horse  had  cost  a  hundred  guineas,  but 
when  the  hour  of  payment  came,  Byron  wrote 
to  say  that  he  could  not  afford  to  give  more 
than  eighty  pounds  '  as  I  have  to  undergo  con- 
siderable expense  at  the  present  time.'  No 
wonder  Lady  Blessington  writes  '  How  strange 

to  beg  and  entreat  to  have  the  horse  resigned 
127 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

to  him,  and  then  name  a  price  less  than  he 
cost' 

In  openly  dwelling  on  his  own  faults  as 
was  his  habit,  Byron  had  said  that  in  addi- 
tion to  others,  avarice  was  now  established ; 
and  again  when  stating  that  his  friend  Hob- 
house  had  pointed  out  many  imperfections  of 
character  to  him,  the  poet  continued  '  I  could 
have  told  him  of  some  more  which  he  had 
not  discovered,  for  even  then  avarice  had  made 
itself  strongly  felt  in  my  nature.'  Whilst  at 
Genoa  the  Blessingtons  had  frequent  oppor- 
tunities of  noting  his  love  for  money ;  for 
in  making  the  rounds  of  the  city  with  them, 
he  would  occasionally  express  his  delight  at 
some  specimen  of  art  or  article  of  furniture 
until  he  had  inquired  the  price,  when  he 
shrank  back  at  thought  of  the  expense,  and 
congratulated  himself  on  requiring  no  such 
luxuries. 

Before  leaving  they  were  to  have  a  further 
proof  of  this  peculiarity.  As  he  was  going  to 
Greece  he  had  no  need  for  his  yacht,  the 

Bolivar,   which    as    already   stated    he    wished 
128 


Lord  Blessington  to  buy.  The  boat  was  luxuri- 
ously furnished,  and  its  couches  of  Genoese 
velvet  and  its  marble  baths  particularly  pleased 
Lady  Blessington,  who  was,  however,  more 
attracted  by  the  fact  that  he  had  written 
several  of  his  poems  on  board.  It  was  there- 
fore agreed  that  they  should  buy  the  yacht, 
the  price  of  which  was  left  for  Mr  Barry, 
Byron's  friend  and  banker,  to  determine  :  but 
when  the  latter  fixed  a  sum,  Byron  demanded 
a  higher  figure,  which  the  extravagant  Irish 
peer  gave  without  condescending  to  bargain. 
'  The  poet  is  certainly  fond  of  money '  com- 
ments Lady  Blessington. 

On  the  2/th  of  May  Byron  dined  with  his 
hospitable  friends,  '  our  last  dinner  together 
for  heaven  knows  how  long,  perhaps  for  ever ' 
writes  the  hostess.  None  of  those  who  sat 
round  the  board  was  gay ;  Byron  least  of  all. 
Looking  paler  and  thinner  than  ever,  he  fell 
into  silence  continually,  from  which  he  roused 
himself  to  assume  an  appearance  of  gaiety. 
Once  more  he  spoke  of  his  expedition 

to    Greece    and    wished    he    had    not  pledged 
VOL.  i.  129  i 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

himself  to  go ;  adding  that  having  promised, 
he  must  now  fulfil  his  engagement.  Then 
he  eagerly  grasped  at  an  idea  held  out 
to  him  of  paying  a  visit  before  he  left  to 
his  friends  when  they  reached  Naples, 
and  sailing  in  the  bay  on  board  the  Bolivar: 
and  with  this  pleasant  hope  he  left  them  for 
that  night. 

Four  evenings  later  came  a  time  of  trial  for 
all  of  them  when  the  poet,  pale  and  dejected, 
entered  the  salon  to  say  farewell.  In  this 
melancholy  hour  the  presentiment  that  he 
would  never  return  from  his  expedition  and 
that  they  would  never  meet  again  seemed  to 
strengthen  to  certainty.  '  Here  we  are  now  all 
together '  he  said  sadly  '  but  when  and  where 
shall  we  meet  again  ?  I  have  a  sort  of  boding 
that  we  see  each  other  for  the  last  time;  as 
something  tells  me  I  shall  never  again  return 
from  Greece.' 

Then  unable  to  control  his  voice  any  longer 
he  leaned  his  head  on  the  arm  of  the  sofa  on 
which  he  and  Lady  Blessington  were  seated, 
and  bursting  into  tears  sobbed  for  some  time 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

in  the  fulness  of  bitter  feeling.  The  whole 
party  were  impressed  and  moved  and  the 
hostess  especially,  ever  tender  and  sympathetic, 
was  overcome]  by  grief. 

Presently,  by  one  of  those  strange  and  sudden 
transitions  of  his  character,  Byron  drying  his 
tears,  once  more  reproached  her  for  not  re- 
maining in  Genoa  until  he  sailed  for  Greece, 
again  showing  some  pique,  and  referring  sar- 
castically to  his  nervousness  by  way  of  excus- 
ing his  emotion.  Later  he  softened  once  more 
and  gave  them  all  some  little  present  by  which 
they  might  remember  him  in  years  to  come  ; 
to  one  a  book,  to  another  a  print  of  his  bust 
by  Bartolini,  and  to  Lady  Blessington  a  copy 
of  his  Armenian  Grammar  which  contained 
notes  in  his  own  writing.  In  return  he 
asked  for  some  souvenir,  something  she 
had  worn  that  he  might  keep;  on  which 
she  took  a  ring  from  her  finger  and  gave  it 
to  him. 

Byron  was  touched  and  gratified,  and  on 
the  impulse  of  the  moment  took  from  his 
stock  and  presented  to  her  a  pin  bearing  a 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

small  cameo  of  Napoleon,  which  the  poet  said 
had  long  been  his  companion. 

When  the  final  words  came  to  be  said  his 
lips  quivered,  his  voice  became  inarticulate, 
and  tears  rushed  into  his  eyes.  His  parting 
was  full  of  melancholy. 

That  night  Lady  Blessington,  heavy  of  heart 
and  oppressed  by  nervous  fear,  wrote  in  her 
diary : — 

'  Should  his  presentiment  be  realised,  and 
we  indeed  meet  no  more,  I  shall  never  cease 
to  remember  him  with  kindness ;  the  very- 
idea  that  I  shall  not  see  him  again,  over- 
powers me  with  sadness,  and  makes  me  forget 
many  defects  which  had  often  disenchanted 
me  with  him.  Poor  Byron.  I  will  not  allow 
myself  to  think  that  we  have  met  for  the 
last  time :  although  he  has  infected  us  all  by 
his  superstitious  forebodings.' 

Though  they  were  to  see  him  no  more, 
they  were  to  hear  from  him  again  before 
they  left  Genoa,  for  next  morning  came 
a  note  which  contained  the  following 
words : — 

132 


V 

'  MY  DEAR  LADY  BLESSINGTON, — I  am 
superstitious  and  have  recollected  that  memorials 
with  a  point  are  of  less  fortunate  augury :  I 
will  therefore  request  you  to  accept  instead  of 
the  pin,  the  enclosed  chain  which  is  of  so 
slight  a  value  that  you  need  not  hesitate. 
As  you  wished  for  something  worn  I  can 
only  say  that  it  has  been  worn  oftener  and 
longer  than  any  other.  It  is  of  Venetian 
manufacture,  and  the  only  peculiarity  about 
it  is,  that  it  could  only  be  obtained  at  or 
from  Venice.  At  Genoa  they  have  none  of 
the  same  kind. 

'  I  also  enclose  a  ring  which  I  would  wish 
Alfred  to  keep,  it  is  too  large  to  wear ;  but 
it  is  formed  of  lava  and  so  far  adapted  to 
the  fire  of  his  years  and  character.  You  will 
perhaps  have  the  goodness  to  acknowledge 
the  receipt  of  this  note,  and  send  back  the 
pin  (for  good  luck's  sake)  which  I  shall 
value  much  more  for  having  been  a  night  in 
your  custody.' 


CHAPTER    V 

First  Sight  of  Naples — The  City  Crowds — A 
Magnificent  Palace — Entertaining — Sir  William 
Cell — My  Lord's  Extravagance — The  Building  of 
a  Fairy  Palace  —  Lord  Blessington  returns  to 
Italy — Travelling  in  Former  Times — The  Inn  at 
Borghetto— Life  in  the  Palazzo  Belvedere — Young 
Mathews  as  a  Mimic — Amateur  Theatricals — 
Above  the  Bay. 

FROM  Genoa  the  Blessington  party  travelled 
to  Florence  where  they  stayed  about  a  month, 
then  visited  Siena  and  Rome  which  in  the 
month  of  July  they  found  intolerably  hot, 
and  thence  to  Naples  their  destination. 

Reaching  this  wonderful  city  by  one  of  the 
steep  hills  in  its  background,  they  stopped 
their  carriages  to  look  down  with  delight  on 
the  labyrinth  of  streets,  tortuous,  quaint,  and 
narrow,  and  vivid  coloured  in  the  glow  of  the 
sun ;  on  the  palaces  surrounded  by  terraces  and 
gardens,  on  innumerable  churches  with  domes 
134 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

and  bell  towers,  and  above  all  on  the  bay, 
serene  and  sunny,  whose  unbroken  blue  was 
scarce  darker  than  the  sky,  whose  islands 
three,  floated  verdant  and  phantasmal  beyond, 
whose  opposite  shores  were  dotted  by  villages 
white  in  the  glare,  and  lined  by  groves  of 
orange  and  lemon  that  descended  to  the  sea. 

Here  was  the  city  of  their  dreams,  the  city 
they  had  travelled  far  to  see,  the  first  sight 
of  which  held  them  speechless.  And  if  by 
day  'twas  wonderful,  by  night  and  moonlight 
it  was  magical :  here  they  resolved  to  stay. 
At  first  they  hired  a  suite  of  rooms  in  the 
hotel  Grand  Bretagna,  whilst  looking  out  for 
a  suitable  residence  in  which  to  settle.  The 
life  of  the  city  surged  around  them  ;  and  all 
things — the  crowds  with  their  volcanic  gaiety, 
the  shops  full  of  antiquities,  the  market-places, 
the  quarters  of  the  ear-ringed  red-capped 
fishermen,  the  religious  processions  and  church 
ceremonies — were  new  with  a  newness  that 
brought  delight. 

At  night  when  refreshing  breezes  crept  up 
from  the  bay,  mirthful  as  children  free  for  a 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

holiday,  they  went  into  the  streets  to  mix 
amongst  the  people  and  make  one  of  them  ; 
passing  the  cafes  and  ice  shops  with  their 
marble  tables  and  brilliant  lights ;  the 
tobacco  shops  with  their  crowds:  the 
portable  barrows  or  bottegi  with  their  canopies 
of  striped  lawn,  the  gorgeous  colours  of  their 
ill-drawn  pictorial  designs,  their  bright-hued 
paper  lanterns,  where  were  sold  lemonade,  ice 
water,  or  sorbetto,  macaroni  hot  and  savoury 
smelling,  water  melons  mines  of  golden  fruit 
in  green  rinds,  pomegranates  scarlet  and  juicy, 
frittura,  shell  fish,  gingerbread  fantastically 
shaped,  and  pictures  of  the  madonna  and 
saints.  Then  forever  above  the  din  of  those 
who  cried  their  wares,  and  the  indistinct 
murmur  of  crowds,  came  the  sounds  of  guitars 
and  the  voices  of  singers  as  they  passed  a 
corner  or  came  through  the  archway  of  an 
alley  ;  or  the  high-pitched  prayers  of  a  beggar : 
or  the  ringing  laughter  of  women's  voices,  all 
sounds  perhaps  suddenly  hushed  as  a  priest 
and  his  acolyte  passed  through  a  lane  of 

kneeling  figures,  bearing  the  host  to  one  dying. 
M6 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

On  the  Chiaja  in  the  evening  cool,  carriages 
drove  backwards  and  forwards,  in  which  were 
seated  dark-complexioned  women  with  glow- 
ing eyes  and  raven  hair,  fanning  themselves 
languorously,  gesticulating,  smiling. 

In  the  Mole  down  by  the  sea,  and  full  of 
the  brine  of  its  breath,  the  crowds  were  chiefly 
composed  of  brown-legged,  bare-armed  sailors, 
with  their  wives  whose  full  throats  were  clasped 
by  amber  and  coral.  Here  a  young  man  whose 
voice  was  sweet  as  music,  whose  face  was 
like  to  Caesar  on  a  coin,  recited  Tasso's 
'  Gerusalemme '  to  groups  of  men  and  women 
whom  he  stirred  and  swayed,  and  whose 
silence  was  broken  only  by  bursts  of  applause. 

Further  down  were  two  who  sang  duets, 
love  songs,  and  songs  of  the  sea,  accompany- 
ing themselves  on  their  guitars ;  whilst  in 
another  direction  Punch,  a  genuine  native  of 
this  clime,  played  pranks  and  jested  wittily 
to  crowds  who  watched  his  antics  by  the 
glare  of  oil  lamps,  and  answered  his  quips 
with  peals  of  laughter. 

And  not  far  from  him,  standing  on  a  chair, 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

his  voice  raised,  his  gestures  imploring,  a  scarce 
heeded  monk  called  sinners  to  repentance. 

After  having  looked  at  half  the  palaces  in 
Naples  and  its  environs,  the  Blessingtons  at 
last  hired  as  their  residence  the  Palazzo 
Belvedere  at  Vomero,  a  princely  building 
situated  on  a  hill  that  gave  it  a  magnificent 
prospect,  and  surrounded  by  beautiful  gardens 
that  overlooked  the  bay.  A  stately  archway 
led  through  spacious  pleasure  grounds  planted 
with  palms  and  oranges  and  sweet-smelling 
shrubs,  to  the  palace  which  formed  three  sides 
of  a  square,  the  fourth  being  filled  by  an 
arcade.  In  the  centre  of  the  courtyard  was 
a  marble  fountain  mellowed  by  time  to  an 
amber  hue.  A  pillared  colonnade  extended  in 
front ;  the  windows  of  the  five  reception 
rooms  opened  on  a  raised  terrace  with  marble 
balustrades,  at  one  end  of  which  was  an  open- 
arched  pavilion  that  looked  out  upon  the 
'happy  fields'  lying  at  the  base  of  a  fore- 
ground of  descending  vineyards:  beyond  lay 
Vesuvius,  the  mountain  itself  a  purple  height 
against  transparent  blue ;  and  below,  slept 
138 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

the  bay,  a  scene  and  source  of  undying 
beauty,  of  unending  delight 

Interiorly  the  palace  was  spacious  and  lofty, 
the  ceilings  painted  and  gilded,  the  floors  of 
marble ;  pillars  of  Oriental  alabaster  support- 
ing archways;  statues  and  pictures  filling 
rooms  and  galleries.  Before  taking  possession 
of  the  palace,  Lady  Blessington  added  to 
the  cumberous  sofas,  the  gilt  chairs,  the  tables 
of  malachite  and  agate  with  which  it  was 
already  furnished,  curtains,  carpets,  rugs  and 
various  articles  which  gave  comfort  to  its 
somewhat  chilling  splendour. 

Then  their  English  banker  living  in  Naples 
'  a  most  gentlemanly  and  obliging  personage ' 
engaged  Neopolitan  servants  for  them ;  when 
their  mistress  became  acquainted  with  a  system 
of  housekeeping  different  from  any  she  had 
known  before,  and  one  which  saved  a  world 
of  trouble  and  imposition.  This  being  that 
an  agreement  was  entered  into  with  the  cook 
to  furnish  all  meals  according  to  the  number 
of  dishes  at  a  stipulated  price  per  head,  each 
guest  invited  being  paid  for  at  the  same  rate. 
139 


At  the  end  of  each  week  a  bill,  resembling 
that  of  an  hotel,  except  that  it  contained  no 
separate  items,  was  presented  by  the  cook  and 
checked  by  the  maitre  d1  hotel. 

Being  now  established  in  the  Palazzo 
Belvedere,  Lady  Blessington  heartily  con- 
gratulated herself  on  the  comforts  of  a  private 
house  after  spending  eleven  months  in  hotels. 
Dear  to  her  was  the  comfort  of  '  being  sure 
of  meeting  no  strangers  on  the  stairs ;  no 
intruders  in  the  ante-rooms ;  of  hearing  no 

7  o 

slappings  of  doors  ;  no  knocking  about  of 
trunks  and  imperials ;  no  cracking  of  whips 
of  postilions ;  no  vociferations  of  couriers ;  and 
above  all  of  not  having  our  olfactory  organs 
disgusted  by  the  abominable  odour  of  cigars. 
'  Surely'  she  says  '  an  exemption  from  such 
annoyances  after  an  endurance  of  them  for 
nearly  a  year,  is  in  itself  a  subject  for  satisfac- 
tion ;  but  to  have  secured  such  an  abode  as  this 
palazzo,  is  indeed  a  cause  for  thankfulness.' 

Lady  Blessington   and    her   party  now   gave 
themselves   up   to  sight  -  seeing   and    to    enter- 
taining.     Scarcely    a    day    passed    that    some 
140 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

foreigner  of  distinction,  or  some  Englishman 
of  position  passing  through  or  visiting  Naples, 
did  not  dine  with  them  ;  whilst  she  was  ever 
ready  to  welcome  them  to  her  salon  in  the 
evenings.  Their  hospitality  was  widespread 
and  warm-hearted. 

Now  it  was  Prince  Buttera  who  dined  with 
them  ;  the  Prince  once  a  plain  soldier  of  fortune 
having 'gained  the  hand  and  with  it  the  wealth 
and  title  of  a  princess  and  an  heiress  who  had 
fallen  in  love  with  him ;  then  it  was  Millingen 
the  antiquary  who  stayed  some  days  with  and 
gave  them  lectures  on  numismatics;  again  their 
guests  were  the  Duke  of  Roccoromano  and 
Prince  Ischittelli;  or  Count  Paul  Lieven,  a 
Russian  who  spoke  English  fluently,  or  Herschel 
the  English  astronomer,  and  Hamilton  the 
English  minister,  or  the  Due  de  Fitzjames,  or 
Lord  Howden,  or  Westmacott  the  young 
sculptor,  or  Lord  Dudley  who  was  eccentric, 
but  was  not  considered  mad,  owing  to 
his  possessing  fifty  thousand  a  year;  or  Lord 
Ashley  on  his  way  to  Sicily,  or  Lord 

Guilford  returning  from  Corfu. 
141 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Then  they  were  entertained  by  Harry  Neale, 
admiral  of  the  English  Fleet  stationed  in  the 
bay  ;  or  were  conducted  by  night  to  the  obser- 
vatory at  Capo  di  Monte  by  Herschel  himself, 
where  they  viewed  the  stars  ;  or  were  invited 
to  dinner  by  the  Archbishop  of  Tarentum,  a 
white-haired  picturesque  prelate,  suspended 
from  his  office  for  dabbling  in  revolu- 
tions, who  wished  them  to  meet  Son  Altesse 
Royale  the  Prince  Gustave  of  Mechlenbourg ; 
or  were  taken  by  Lord  Dudley  to  see  the  beauti- 
ful grounds  of  the  Villa  Gallo  ;  or  ascended 
Vesuvius  and  spent  a  day  at  Pompeii  under 
the  guidance  of  the  learned  Sir  William  Gell, 
leading  in  all  a  joyous  life,  unknown  to  care. 

One  of  their  most  frequent  guests  and  inti- 
mate friends  was  Sir  William  Gell  the  archaeo- 
logist and  traveller  who  had  published  many 
learned  works  and  had  in  his  day  played  the 
part  of  a  courtier ;  he  having  accompanied 
Queen  Charlotte,  the  unhappy  wife  of  George 
the  Fourth,  in  her  journey  to  Italy,  as  one 
of  her  chamberlains.  From  1820  he  lived  in 

Italy,   having   a   house  in    Rome    and   another 

142 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

in  Naples  where  '  surrounded  by  books,  draw- 
ings and  maps,  with  a  guitar  and  two  or 
three  dogs'  he  received  numbers  of  dis- 
tinguished visitors.  For  years  previous  to  his 
death  he  suffered  from  gout  and  rheumatism, 
but  though  his  hands  were  swollen  to  a 
great  size  with  chalkstones  he  handled  a 
pencil  or  pen  with  great  delicacy  and  sketched 
with  remarkable  rapidity  and  accuracy. 

In  Lady  Blessington's  salon  where  he  was 
ever  welcome,  he  rolled  himself  about  in  his 
chair,  being  unable  to  walk,  telling  her  droll 
anecdotes,  talking  on  archaeological  subjects, 
or  playing  on  a  rough  Greek  double  flute  as  an 
accompaniment  to  a  dog  whom  he  had  taught 
to  sing  in  a  wonderful  manner.  It  was  he 
who  probably  inspired  her  with  a  desire  to 
see  the  Pyramids,  for  she  talked  much  of 
journeying  to  Egypt  about  this  time,  though 
the  project  was  never  accomplished. 

Sir  William  Gell  was  not  the  only  resident 

who  served  to   make  Lady  Blessington's  stay 

agreeable  ;  for  at  this  period  there  had  settled 

here  a  group  of  well-known  individuals — many 

143 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

of    them    her    own    countrymen    who    formed 
a  delightful  social  circle. 

Amongst  them  was  Sir  William  Drummond, 
at  one  time  British  Envoy  Extraordinary  and 
Minister  Plenipotentiary  to  the  King  of  the 
two  Sicilies ;  a  learned  man  and  a  prolific 
author,  a  philosopher  and  a  poet  who  so  far 
outraged  philosophy  and  followed  poetry  as  to 
marry  when  advanced  in  life,  a  gay  young  wife ; 
who  spent  his  immense  wealth  freely,  dressed 
magnificently,  and  graciously  smiled  upon  her 
lap-dog  and  her  husband's  secretary.  The 
Abbe  Campbell  an  ecclesiastic  of  the  old 
school  was  another  person  of  note :  rotund 
in  person,  purple-visaged,  snuff-smeared,  and 
bull-necked ;  an  Irishman,  a  wit,  a  lover  of 
good  wine,  a  satirist,  who  though  devoid  of 
the  advantages  of  birth  or  breeding  or  culture, 
could  boast  of  the  friendship  of  kings  and 
princes,  and  exercised  a  mysterious  influence 
over  the  governments  of  great  countries. 
Humorous  as  he  was,  he  was  not  excelled  in 
that  quality  by  another  Hibernian,  Doctor 

Quinn,  who   had  a  large  practice  amongst  the 
144 


LAD  Y  BLESS1NGTON 

English  residents  and  visitors;  a  man  ever 
ready  with  repartee,  full  of  humanity,  hearty 
and  most  hospitable. 

Scarce  less  a  favourite  amongst  all  was 
Doctor  Reilly,  likewise  Irish  ;  a  retired  navy 
surgeon,  wild-spirited,  who  in  his  day  was 
concerned  with  strange  romances  in  which 
rope  ladders  and  convent  walls  formed  conspic- 
uous scenic  effects :  but  who  now  had  settled 
down  to  matrimony  which  brought  wealth. 
Never  was  man  more  jocose,  especially  at 
his  table  round  which  he  delighted  to 
gather  his  friends  not  less  than  twice  a 
week  ;  and  many  rare  passages  of  arms 
were  exchanged  between  himself  and  the 
Abbe. 

Then  came  a  dear  and  lovable  old  man 
General  Wade  from  Westmeath,  who  by  some 
strange  turn  of  fortune's  wheel  was  Com- 
mandant of  the  Castello  D'Ovo,  and  who 
rejoiced  in  entertaining  his  friends,  not 
alone  with  the  pleasures  he  set  before'  them, 
but  by  the  stories  which  he  told  them  ;  harm- 
less, full  of  frolic,  now  and  then  throwing 
VOL.  i.  145  K 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

side  lights  upon  his  own  adventures  and  the 
bravery  of  his  deeds. 

The  Hon.  Keppel  Craven,  Lord  Craven's 
son  was  another  of  this  group,  a  particular 
friend  of  Sir  William  Cell  with  whom  he  had 
acted  as  chamberlain  to  George  the  Fourth's 
wife  when  she  had  set  out  on  her  travels, 
but  whose  service  he  left  at  Naples.  A 
scholar,  a  musician,  an  amateur  actor  and 
something  of  an  artist,  he  was  always  warmly 
welcomed  at  the  Palazzo  Belvedere. 

And  not  least  of  this  group  was  Captain 
Hesse,  the  son  of  a  Prussian  banker  who 
had  obtained  a  commission  in  an  English 
regiment,  whose  handsome  appearance  had 
caused  the  Princess  Charlotte  of  Wales 
when  a  girl,  to  smile  at  him  encouragingly 
as  he  gaily  rode  past  her  window,  and  later 
to  enter  into  a  correspondence  with  and  give 
him  her  portrait. 

With  these  and  others  who  came  and  went, 
the  residents  of  the  Palazzo  Belvedere  were 
well  entertained.  But  scarcely  had  his  family 

been  settled  at  Naples,  than  Lord  Blessington 
146 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

found  it  necessary  to  return  to  England  and 
subsequently  to  Ireland  that  he  might  arrange 
some  pressing  business.  Whilst  travelling 
with  a  retinue  of  servants  through  France 
and  Italy,  hiring  suites  of  apartments  in  ex- 
pensive hotels  and  entertaining  largely,  he  yet 
kept  up  his  town  house  in  St  James's  Square, 
and  his  country  house  in  Mountjoy  Forest. 

This  expenditure  outran  his  income,  his 
estates  being  already  hampered  by  mortgages  ; 
and  large  sums  of  ready  money  were  raised 
from  time  to  time  on  his  property ;  such 
paltry  considerations  by  no  means  interfering 
with  his  characteristic  extravagance.  Nay 
even  at  this  time  he  thought  of  erecting  a 
castle  in  Mountjoy  Forest,  instead  of  the 
roomy  rambling  old  house  in  which  he  re- 
sided when  he  visited  Ireland  for  a  few 
weeks  in  the  hunting  season. 

He  was  full  of  this  idea  when  in  London 
in  the  summer  of  1823,  and  whilst  one  day 
visiting  his  friend  Charles  Mathews  the  actor, 
was  struck  by  some  plans  and  designs  he  saw 
hanging  on  the  walls  of  his  rooms.  The  actor 
14? 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

proudly  explained  that  these  had  been  drawn 
by  his  son  Charles,  who  had  been  articled 
for  four  years  to  Augustus  Pugin  the  architect, 
and  was  now  about  to  start  for  himself.  With 
his  habitual  good  nature  Lord  Blessington  there 
and  then  declared  he  would  give  the  lad  an 
opportunity  of  making  his  name  in  the  pro- 
fession he  had  selected,  by  letting  him  erect 
Mountjoy  Castle.  The  elder  Mathews  who 
was  delighted  at  the  project  offered  his  pro- 
fuse thanks  when  the  Earl  and  the  actor  parted. 
Young  Charles  had  been  educated  at  Merchant 
Taylor's  School  and  afterwards  under  a  private 
tutor  at  Clapham.  It  had  been  his  father's 
intention  to  make  a  clergyman  of  the  boy, 
who  however  showed  no  inclination  to  become 
a  parson.  Handsome  and  graceful  in  person, 
he  was  quick  and  vivacious  in  temperament, 
sunny  natured,  full  of  tact,  with  a  rich  in- 
heritance of  varied  talent,  and  a  gentleness 
withal  that  won  him  the  admiration  and  love 
of  those  who  knew  him. 

To    him    Lord    Blessington's    promise  was  a 

source   of  excitement  and    delight,  which  was 
148 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

heightened  a  couple  of  weeks  later  by  the 
receipt  of  the  following  letter  addressed 
by  the  Earl  to  Charles  Mathews  the  elder: — 

'  If  you  like  the  idea  send  him  (Charles) 
off  forthwith  to  Liverpool  or  Holyhead,  from 
which  places  steamers  go,  and  by  the  Derry 
mail  he  will  be  here  (with  resting  a  day  in 
Dublin)  in  five  days :  but  he  must  lose  no 
time  in  setting  off.  I  will  bring  him  back 
in  my  carriage.' 

To  this  was  added  in  a  postscript  an  in- 
vitation, which  it  was  hoped  might  tempt 
the  elder  Mathews  to  visit  a  country  in 
whose  capital  he  had  in  his  youth,  performed 
without  credit  to  himself. 

'  I  suppose '  it  said  '  it  would  be  utterly 
useless  my  asking  you  to  come  with  Charles ; 
but  if  you  wish  to  spend  a  week  in  one  of 
the  most  beautiful  spots  in  Ireland,  eat  the 
best  vension,  Highland  mutton  and  rabbits, 
and  drink  the  best  claret  in  Ireland,  this  is 
the  place :  and  you  would  be  received  with 
undivided  applause,  and  I  would  give  you 

some  comical  dresses  for  your  kit.' 
149 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

The  invitation  was  no  sooner  received  than 
it  was  accepted  on  behalf  of  the  son  who  was 
soon  ready  to  start  for  Ireland  but  had  to 
wait  a  couple  of  days  before  beginning  his 
journey  as  the  mail-coach  was  full :  whilst  a 
similar  occurence  detained  him  in  Dublin. 
Once  arrived  at  Mountjoy  Forest  he  began 
what  he  terms  the  grand  project,  and  revelled 
in  the  delightful  occupation  of  building  castles 
in  the  air.  The  Earl  was  enthusiastic  regard- 
ing his  scheme.  As  Mathews  relates  in  his  auto- 
biography '  fifty  different  plans  were  furnished, 
and  fifty  different  alterations  were  suggested, 
till  the  time  ran  away  and  we  were  not  much 
further  advanced  than  when  we  started.  Lord 
Blessington  was  absorbed  in  his  grand  idea, 
and  went  mad  over  the  details.  Suggestion 
upon  suggestion  and  alteration  upon  alteration 
succeeded  each  other  hour  by  hour;  but 
nothing  daunted  I  followed  all  his  caprices 
with  patience  and  good-humour,  and  even 
derived  amusement  from  his  flights  of  fancy.' 

The  fact    was,  as    this   shrewd   young   man 

soon  discovered,  that  his  chief  charm  lay  in  his 

150 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

acquiescence  with  my  lord's  whims.  He  had 
already  been  furnished  with  plans  on  a 
magnificent  scale  for  a  castle  by  Wyatt,  who 
would  not  permit  a  suggestion  or  allow  an 
alteration,  a  despotism  that  by  no  means 
suited  the  Earl,  who  really  wanted  to  design 
the  residence  and  to  suggest  the  arrange- 
ments, and  merely  required  someone  smart 
enough  to  put  his  plans  in  shape  and  carry 
out  his  practical  details.  '  I  am  just  the 
person  for  him '  says  Mathews  '  ardent  as 
himself,  and  rather  delighting  in,  than  object- 
ing to  the  constant  exercise  for  ingenuity  his 
exuberant  conceptions  afforded  me,  and  we 
laboured  capitally  together.' 

In  this  way  a  couple  of  months  were 
pleasantly  passed,  when  after  much  deliber- 
ation and  innumerable  changes,  an  appropriate 
site  for  the  castle  was  selected,  the  ground 
plan  was  marked  out  to  the  proper  scale,  and 
the  turf  dug  at  the  chosen  spot.  Stones  were 
then  raised  to  the  height  of  six  feet  all  round 
the  building,  in  order  to  judge  of  the  views 
from  the  lower  windows.  And  all  this  being 


done  they  found  to  their  mortification  that 
sight  was  lost  of  a  certain  piece  of  river  and 
an  old  stone  bridge  which  they  had  calculated 
on  getting  into  the  perspective.  Lord  Blessing- 
ton  was  not  a  man  to  allow  obstacles  of  any 
kind  to  stand  between  him  and  his  wishes  ; 
so  the  young  architect  received  orders  to 
change  the  course  of  the  river,  that  it  might 
be  brought  into  view  ;  then  an  ugly  hill  on  the 
other  side  was  to  be  carted  away,  whilst  a 
big  bare  mountain  likewise  objectionable, 
which  might  not  readily  lend  itself  to  such 
treatment,  was  to  be  planted  with  firs  and 
larch,  for  which  purpose  a  hundred  and  fifty 
thousand  were  removed  from  the  nursery  to 
the  spot. 

'  Are  not  these  grand  doings  ? '  asks  young 
Mathews  in  writing  to  his  mother. 

The  pleasant  task  of  planning  the  fairy 
palace  did  not  wholly  occupy  the  time  of  host 
and  guest,  who  diverted  themselves  with  stag- 
hunting,  rabbit-shooting,  sight-seeing,  and  play- 
acting between  whiles  ;  when  Mathews  who 
inherited  his  father's  talents  and  was  a  capital 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

mimic,  an  excellent  actor,  and  a  rare  story- 
teller, appeared  as  the  hero  in  '  Jeremy  Diddler ' ; 
Charles  Gardiner  my  lord's  illegitimate  son, 
playing  Fainwould  ;  and  the  Earl  representing 
Sam.  The  country  gentry  were  invited  and 
great  fun  followed.  Concerning  one  of  these 
who  probably  had  drunk  overmuch  of  the  best 
claret  in  Ireland,  Mathews  tells  a  delightful 
anecdote  not  to  be  omitted. 

This  individual  was  offered  a  bed  and  'he 
undressed  himself  in  his  dressing-room,  put 
out  his  candle  and  entered  his  bedroom.  But 
after  groping  round  and  round  the  room  for 
some  time,  he  could  not  find  any  bed,  and 
there  being  no  bell,  he  laid  himself  down  on 
the  rug  and  slept  till  morning.  On  awakening 
he  discovered  that  there  was  a  most  beautiful 
bed  in  the  middle  of  the  room.' 

Now  the  fairy  palace  having  been  raised  to 
the  height  of  six  feet,  the  Earl  discovered  that 
nothing  more  could  be  done  until  Lady  Bless- 
ington  had  seen  and  approved  of  the  plans  ; 
and  he  therefore  proposed  to  carry  the  young 
and  docile  architect  with  him  to  Naples  where 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

she  might  be  consulted  and  all  further  details 
carried  out  under  her  instructions.  The  lad's 
parents  were  asked  to  consent  to  this  arrange- 
ment, and  the  elder  Mathews  wrote  that  he 
could  not  find  language  '  to  convey  the  high 
sense  I  have  of  the  honour  and  friendship  you 
have  conferred  on  me  in  the  person  of  Charles, 
nor  of  the  gratification  I  feel  that  you  deem  him 
worthy  of  the  proposed  distinction  of  residing 
with  Lady  Blessington  and  yourself  during  the 
winter;'  whilst  as  for  Mrs  Mathews  'she  was 
anxious  to  waive  all  selfish  consideration  in 
order  to  give  him  the  whole  advantage  of  your 
lordship's  invaluable  friendship,  and  regardless 
of  aught  else,  to  insure  his  welfare  in  your  con- 
tinued kind  feelings  towards  him.  With  all 
thankfulness  for  so  unexpected  and  great  proof 
of  it,  she  yields  up  Charles  to  your  lordship's 
and  Lady  Blessington's  entire  direction  ;  well 
assured  and  satisfied  that  under  such  auspices 
and  associations,  he  must  acquire  much,  and 
improve  in  all  things  that  can  insure  him  pre- 
sent delight  and  lasting  honour.' 

Young      Mathews      was     delighted     at     the 
154 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

prospect  of  seeing  Italy,  the  land  of  his 
dreams,  he  could  scarcely  believe  his  good 
fortune,  and  for  days  he  walked  on  air.  There 
was  a  quick  return  to  London  where  hasty 
preparations  were  made.  Then  on  the  morn- 
ing of  the  2  ist  of  September  1823,  he  bade 
his  parents  good-bye ;  eyes  were  wiped,  and 
handkerchiefs  were  waved  to  him  who  seated 
beside  his  patron  in  a  well-laden  travelling 
carriage  with  four  post  horses,  was  driven  at  a 
smart  rate  from  St  James's  Square. 

A  world  of  wonders  opened  up  before  the 
young  man's  sight,  and  he  had  ample  time  to 
examine  whatever  interested  him,  owing  to 
his  lordship's  habits :  for  the  Earl  loved  his 
ease  and  had  no  desire  to  hurry ;  he  was  not 
a  walker,  and  sight-seeing  bored  him  ;  he  break- 
fasted in  bed  and  there  read  his  newspapers  and 
books,  rising  late  in  the  day,  so  that  Mathews 
saw  little  of  him  save  when  travelling  or  at 
meal-times.  Fortunately  for  the  young  man, 
Lord  Blessington  had  another  travelling  com- 
panion in  the  person  of  Sir  Charles  Sutton, 
who  bore  Mathews  company  in  his  excursions 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

abroad,  and  his  visits  to  palaces,  churches,  and 
galleries. 

Seven  days  after  their  departure  from 
London  they  had  crossed  the  Jura  and  reached 
Geneva,  where  to  their  astonishment  they  met 
Lady  Blessington's  sister  Mrs  John  Home 
Purves  with  her  children  and  governesses,  and 
the  Hon.  Manners  Sutton,  when  Lord  Blessing- 
ton  pressed  them  to  accompany  him  to 
Naples,  an  invitation  which  they  were  unable 
to  accept.  After  two  months'  travelling  they 
reached  Milan,  where  Lord  Blessington  bought 
another  carriage.  As  an  instance  of  the 
tediousness  which  travellers  endured  in  those 
days,  it  may  be  mentioned  that  in  journeying 
from  Genoa  to  Chiavari  they  fell  in  at  about 
five  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  with  Lord 
Haywarden,  who  had  started  from  Spezia  at 
half-past  four  in  the  morning,  and  had  only 
covered  a  distance  of  seven  miles  meantime. 
He  advised  them  not  to  continue  their  journey, 
much  rain  had  fallen,  the  roads  were  covered 
with  water  and  almost  impassable,  and  he  had 
seen  a  carriage  with  ladies  which  had  been  for 
156 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

four  hours  stuck  in  the  river,  from  which  ten 
horses  had  been  unable  to  drag  them. 

Lord  Blessington  would  not  of  course  listen 
to  advice,  and  soon  he  came  to  part  of  a  road 
crossed  by  a  swollen  stream,  when  he  was 
obliged  to  hire  twenty  stalwart  peasants  to 
drag  them  through  the  water  and  push  the 
carriages  up  a  hill.  Then  they  reached 
Borghetto  and  took  refuge  in  a  hut  called  by 
courtesy  an  inn.  There  was  but  one  bedroom 
which  was  given  up  to  my  lord,  two  other 
beds  being  brought  into  the  salle-a-manger  for 
his  companions.  Rain  poured  in  torrents  all 
night,  an  incessant  noise  was  kept  up,  and 
any  stray  pigs  that  were  passing  by  graciously 
looked  in  on  the  young  Englishmen. 

As  for  the  room  occupied  by  the  elegant 
and  luxurious  Lord  Blessington  'it  was  the 
acme  of  misery,  and  yet  with  a  comic  side  to 
it.  A  small  truck  bed  with  a  little  alcove  at 
the  further  end,  over  which  was  the  staircase 
whose  creaking  boards  completely  banished 
sleep :  Lord  Blessington  in  a  large  flannel 
night-cap,  with  a  travelling  shawl  over  his 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

shoulders,  sitting  up  in  bed  with  his  books  and 
drawings  strewed  around  him,  his  breakfast  by 
his  side,  served  in  the  silver  accessories  of  his 
travelling  kit ;  a  poor  little  rickety  table  set 
out  with  all  the  profusion  of  costly  plate  and 
cut-glass  bottles  of  the  emptied  dressing-case, 
with  brocaded  dressing-gowns  on  the  broken- 
backed  chairs,  and  imperials  piled  on  imperials 
almost  reaching  the  ceiling  and  actually  filling 
the  room.  It  was  a  splendid  subject  for  a 
picture.  I  must  do  him  the  justice '  writes 
Mathews  'to  say  he  bore  his  situation 
manfully.' 

It  was  impossible  for  them  to  quit  this 
place  until  the  floods  .which  swamped  the 
roads  subsided,  and  meanwhile  the  rain  fell 
black  and  steady.  Now  to  while  away  the 
weary  hours,  my  lord  and  his  young  friend 
covered  the  newly  white-washed  walls  with 
grand  cartoons ;  the  Earl  drawing  a  portrait 
of  Napoleon  on  horseback  surrounded  by  his 
generals,  the  architect  picturing  the  great 
temple  at  Paestum.  They  were  eventually 
obliged  to  leave  the  carriages  behind  them, 
158 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

and  to  travel  across  swollen  torrents  on  horse- 
back, whilst  their  luggage  was  carried  in  sedan 
chairs. 

And  so  after  many  strange  adventures  by  flood 
and  field  they  reached  their  destination.  '  What 
words  can  adequately  describe  the  paradise 
to  which  I  was  introduced  at  Naples?'  asks 
Mathews.  '  The  Palazzo  Belvedere,  situated 
about  a  mile  and  a  half  from  the  town  on 
the  heights  of  Vomero,  overlooking  the  city, 
and  the  beautiful  turquoise-coloured  bay  dotted 
with  latine  sails,  with  Vesuvius  on  the  left,  the 
island  of  Capri  on  the  right,  and  the  lovely  coast 
of  Sorrento  stretched  out  in  front,  presented 
an  enchanting  scene.  The  house  was  the 
perfection  of  an  Italian  palace,  with  its  ex- 
quisite frescoes,  marble  arcades,  and  succession 
of  terraces  one  beneath  the  other,  adorned  with 
hanging  groves  of  orange  trees  and  pome- 
granates, shaking  their  odours  among  festoons 
of  vines  and  luxuriant  creepers,  affording 
agreeable  shade  from  the  noontide  sun,  made 
brighter  by  the  brilliant  parterres  of  glowing 
flowers,  while  refreshing  fountains  plashed  in 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

every  direction  among  statues  and  vases  in- 
numerable. I  was  naturally  entranced  and 
commenced  a  new  existence. 

'  Lady  Blessington  then  in  her  youth,  and 
certainly  one  of  the  most  beautiful  as  well  as 
one  of  the  most  fascinating  women  of  her  time, 
formed  the  centre  figure  in  the  little  family 
group  assembled  within  its  precincts. 

'  Count  D'Orsay  was  the  next  object  of 
attraction,  and  I  have  no  hesitation  in  assert- 
ing was  the  beau  ideal  of  manly  dignity  and 
grace.  He  had  not  yet  assumed  the  marked 
peculiarities  of  dress  and  deportment  which  the 
sophistications  of  London  life  subsequently 
developed.  He  was  the  model  of  all  that, 
could  be  conceived  of  noble  demeanour  and 
youthful  candour ;  handsome  beyond  all 
question ;  accomplished  to  the  last  degree  ; 
highly  educated,  and  of  great  literary  acquire- 
ments ;  with  a  gaiety  of  heart  and  cheerful- 
ness of  mind  that  spread  happiness  on  all 
around.  His  conversation  was  brilliant  and 
engaging  as  well  as  clever  and  instructive. 

He    was    moreover    the    best    fencer,    dancer, 
1 60 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

swimmer,  runner,  dresser;  the  best  shot,  the 
best  horseman,  the  best  draughtsman  of  his 
age.  Possessed  of  every  attribute  that  could 
render  his  society  desirable,  I  am  sure  I  do  not 
go  too  far  in  pronouncing  him  the  perfection  of 
a  youthful  nobleman. 

Then  came  Miss  Power,  Lady  Blessington's 
youngest  sister  somewhat  demure  in  aspect, 
of  quiet  and  retiring  manners,  contrasting 
sweetly  with  the  more  dazzling  qualities 
which  sparkled  around  her.  Lady  Blessington 
has  been  described  as  a  peach  blossom,  and 
Miss  Power  as  a  primrose  by  her  side. 

The  great  salon  of  the  villa  occupied  its 
centre,  and  here  in  one  corner  was  Lady 
Blessington's  table  covered  with  flowers,  books 
and  writing  materials,  in  another  corner  Miss 
Power  had  her  table,  Count  D'Orsay  his  in  a 
third  filled  with  artistic  litter,  whilst  a  fourth 
was  given  to  Mathews  where  he  might  map 
out  his  plans  and  draw  his  designs.  My  lord 
had  an  adjoining  sanctum  all  his  own,  in  and 
out  of  which  he  strolled  continually,  asking 
questions,  proposing  some  party  of  pleasure, 

VOL.  I.  l6l  L 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

or  speaking  of  his  occupations,  the  designs  for 
his  castle  and  the  plot  of  the  novel  he  was  then 
engaged  in  writing.  Regarding  the  former  he 
told  a  friend  '  I  discovered  that  Lady  Blessing- 
ton  did  not  like  our  plan,  and  so  without  argu- 
ing the  topic  I  determined  upon  abandoning 
it.  Knowing  also  how  difficult  if  not  impossible 
it  is  to  do  anything  which  everybody  likes,  I 
determined  to  make  a  residence  out  of  my 
present  cottage  which  everybody  dislikes.' 

The  fact  that  all  idea  of  erecting  the  fairy 
palace  was  abandoned  was  concealed  from  the 
young  architect,  who  continued  to  sketch  the 
famous  ruins,  churches,  and  palaces  in  the 
neighbourhood.  His  hosts  were  anxious  to 
keep  under  their  roof  a  young  man  of  so  lively 
a  spirit,  so  entertaining  a  manner,  buoyant, 
clever,  a  maker  of  epigrams,  a  writer  of  Vers 
de  Societ^  a  surprising  mimic,  a  clever  sketcher, 
wonderful  in  his  impromptus,  an  excellent 
actor,  and  withal  full  of  tact,  amiable,  frank, 
and  lovable. 

Now  he  was  getting  up  theatricals,  in  which 

Miss  Power  in   a  pair  of  white  trousers,   buff 
162 


LAD  Y  BLESSING  TON 

waistcoat,  and  blue  frock-coat,  with  beard, 
moustaches  and  eyebrows  made  of  cork,  was 
introduced  as  a  young  Spanish  gentleman  :  he 
himself  was  disguised  '  as  a  nice  old  doctor 
bulky  and  powdered '  with  black  net  breeches, 
white  silk  stockings  and  large  buckles  ;  whilst 
the  Countess  who  made  one  of  the  amateurs 
was  dressed  as  an  old  lady  in  an  embroidered 
silk  gown,  a  cap,  and  a  quantity  of  curls  in 
front,  powdered.  '  I  never  in  my  life  saw 
anything  so  perfectly  beautiful '  writes  the 
lad  to  his  mother.  '  I  would  have  given  a 
hundred  pounds  for  you  to  have  seen  her. 
You  never  saw  such  a  darling  as  she  was 
altogether.' 

Again  he  was  providing  his  hosts  and  their 
guests  with  entertainment  which  he  alone 
provided.  In  a  marvellously  short  time  he 
had  picked  up  the  Neapolitan  dialect,  manner 
and  peculiarities,  and  with  these  in  his  posses- 
sion he  gave  imitations  of  characters  well 
known  to  the  town.  Amongst  those  the 
individual  who  recited  '  Ariosto  and  Tasso  to 
an  entranced  crowd.  Then  he  imitated  the 
163 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

mendicants,  the  street  preachers,  and  musicians 
whose  songs  he  sang  to  an  accompaniment 
on  the  guitar,  as  after  dinner  he  with  his 
friends  sat  in  the  loggia  overlooking  the  bay, 
the  caressing  warmth  of  a  southern  night  in 
the  air,  the  yellow  moonlight  full  upon  the 
bay. 

Once  when  Miss  Power  was  ill  and  had  sixty 
leeches  applied  to  her  in  three  days,  Mathews, 
in  order  to  divert  her,  dressed  himself  as  a 
doctor  and  visited  her.  After  sitting  down  be- 
side and  talking  to  her  for  some  time,  he 
took  the  nurse  aside  to  ask  her  some  droll 
questions  which  the  woman  not  recognising 
him  answered  in  detail,  and  even  consulted  him 
on  several  subjects.  Then  D'Orsay  very  serious 
of  mein  tcok  her  out  of  the  room  to  inquire  what 
the  doctor  had  said,  and  presently  sent  her  in 
again  to  ask  another  question,  but  on  her  re- 
turn no  doctor  was  visible,  only  young  Mathews 
who  had  put  away  his  wig.  She  searched  the 
room  for  the  medical  man  and  would  not  be 
convinced  she  had  been  hoaxed  until  the  wig 

was  replaced  and  the  grave  manner  resumed, 
164 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

when  her  astonishment  became  the  most  laugh- 
able thing  in  the  world. 

This  personation  was  such  a  success  that 
next  evening  when  Sir  William  Gell,  Keppel 
Craven,  Prince  Lardaria  and  Count  Lieven 
came  to  dinner,  Mathews  was  asked  to  repre- 
sent the  doctor  once  more.  So  away  he  stole 
and  presently  sent  down  word  to  say  that 
having  visited  Miss  Power,  he  wished  to  pay 
his  respects  to  her  ladyship.  Immediately  after 
he  was  shown  into  the  room  when  the  guests  who 
had  no  suspicion  of  his  individuality,  all  rose. 
My  lady  played  her  part,  asked  questions  con- 
cerning his  patient,  and  spoke  of  the  climate. 
He  was  next  requested  to  sing  the  song  he 
had  made  a  few  days  before,  when  he  complied 
by  giving  them  '  One  Hundred  Years  Ago.' 
Then  he  told  them  unintelligible  ancedotes, 
made  jokes,  and  took  his  leave  undiscovered  by 
the  strangers. 

When  he  re-entered  in  his  own  person,  they 

began   to  tell  him  of  the   old    bore   who   had 

just    quitted    them,   and    D'Orsay   asked   that 

Mathews    might     give    his     imitation    of    the 

165 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

doctor's  song,  which  he  sang  over  again 
precisely  as  before.  The  imitation  was  de- 
clared excellent  by  all  except  Prince  Lardaria, 
who  remarked  it  did  not  give  him  the  idea  of 
so  old  a  man ;  much  to  his  confusion  when  the 
truth  was  told  him. 

But  even  my  lady  was  fated  to  be  deceived 
by  her  lively  guest,  for  next  morning  he 
arranged  his  hair,  put  on  moustaches,  changed 
his  dress  and  manner,  and  arrived  at  break- 
fast as  Count  Lieven.  Lady  Blessington  rose 
and  made  him  an  elegant  courtesy  when  he 
burst  out  laughing  much  to  her  surprise,  and 
the  secret  was  out.  But  entering  into  his  joke 
she  insisted  he  should  visit  her  sister,  on  which 
he  was  introduced  to  the  bedroom  of  the 
invalid  who  was  overcome  with  shame  that 
the  Count  should  have  been  allowed  to  enter. 
Between  work  and  play,  many  delightful 
months  passed  for  Charles  Mathews  who  writ- 
ing to  his  mother  in  June  1824  says: — 

'  We     are     most    happy    in     Belvedere,    for 

during  the  hot  months  it  is  the  only   breath- 
166 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

ing  place  that  can  be  found.  The  sea  air 
is  always  fresh,  and  the  terraces  always  cool, 
admitting  of  the  most  enchanting  walks  by 
the  light  of  the  moon :  indeed  nothing  can 
equal  these  terraces,  overlooking  the  bay,  and 
perfumed  with  the  exquisite  fragrance  of  the 
flowers  below. 

'An  Italian  moonlight  differs  materially 
from  ours  in  England  from  the  total  absence 
of  all  fog,  or  damp  mists ;  not  even  the 
slightest  dew  is  perceptible.  Not  a  breath 
of  air  is  stirring  or  a  sound  of  any  kind  to 
be  heard  except  the  exquisite  melody  of 
our  darling  nightingales  who  from  the  groves 
above  which  we  stand  and  in  which  we  are 
enveloped,  burst  forth  at  short  intervals  with 
all  that  brilliancy  and  richness  so  often 
celebrated,  but  in  such  perfection  so  seldom 
heard.  Belvedere  at  this  hour  is  elevated 
into  the  very  highest  heaven  of  poetry.  Every 
moonlight  scene  that  ever  was  described,  is 
here  realised  and  surpassed.  That  glorious 
combination  of  sea,  mountain,  and  island 

under  the  soothing  gentle  light  of  the  church 

167 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Diana,  is  viewed  with  a  feeling  of  reverent 
admiration  that  absolutely  inspires  the  soul 
with  an  unearthly  delight. 

'  The  perfect  clearness  with  which  every 
object  is  visible  is  quite  inconceivable.  In 
the  midst  of  the  glistening  reflection  of  the 
pale  light  on  the  glassy  surface  of  the  sea, 
is  frequently  seen  the  small  white  sail  of  the 
fishing-boat  gliding  in  silence  through  the 
calm  water,  or  the  shining  gondola  enjoying 
the  heavenly  scene,  training  after  it  a  long 
line  of  silvery  brightness,  and  sometimes  the 
subdued  sounds  of  their  distant  music  falling 
upon  the  ear.  It  is  really  enchanting,  and 
each  night  with  various  effects  of  light,  I 
enjoy  it  from  the  terrace  which  adjoins  my 
bedroom  when  all  the  rest  of  the  house  are 
quietly  asleep.  Here  I  literally  sit  for  hours 
in  my  morning-gown,  without  the  least  desire 
to  sleep,  watching  with  delighted  eye  the 
fireflies,  their  golden  wings  glistening  as  they 
chase  each  other  from  place  to  place,  and 
sometimes  quite  illuminating  by  their  numbers 

the  deep  purple  shade  of  the  garden.' 
1 68 


CHAPTER    VI 

Byron  starts  for  Greece — An  Inauspicious  Day — 
Storm  and  Danger  —  A  Desolate  Place  —  In 
Missolonghi — Byron's  Illness  and  Death — Tid- 
ings reach  the  Palazzo  Belvedere — leaving 
Naples  —  Residence  in  Florence  —  Lamartine 
and  Landor  —  An  Original  Character  —  An 
Eventful  Life — Lander's  Friendship  with  Lady 
Blessington — Mutual  Admiration. 

WITHIN  five  weeks  of  the  departure  of  Lady 
Blessington  from  Genoa,  Byron  had  started 
for  Greece.  Bearing  in  mind  his  superstitious 
feelings  it  may  be  considered  strange  that  he 
set  sail  on  a  Friday  ;  a  day  on  which  he  had 
a  horror  of  transacting  any  business  or  of 
beginning  any  enterprise. 

Once  when  at  Pisa  he  had  set  out  to  visit 
a  friend  at  her  new  residence,  but  before  reach- 
ing the  door  he  remembered  the  day  was 
Friday,  on  which  he  hurriedly  turned  back, 

not  wishing,  as  he  said,  to  make  his  first  visit 
169 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

on  that  day ;  and  later  he  had  sent  away  a 
Genoese  tailor  who  had  dared  to  bring  home 
a  new  coat  on  the  same  ominous  day. 

But  now  in  taking  so  important  a  step  in 
his  life,  either  forgetful  of  the  day  in  the  midst 
of  his  excitement,  or  believing  that  it  was  im- 
material on  what  day  he  began  an  undertaking 
which  he  felt  assured  would  be  fatal  to  him, 
he  set  sail  for  Greece  on  a  Friday,  embarking 
in  an  English  brig  the  Hercules  which  he  had 
chartered  to  convey  himself  and  his  suite 
consisting  of  Count  Gamba,  Captain  Trelawney, 
Dr  Bruno,  and  eight  servants. 

At  sunrise  of  a  clear  July  morning  they  left 
the  port,  but  there  being  no  wind  they  re- 
mained all  day  in  sight  of  Genoa  with  her 
palaces  and  gardens  looking  down  from  her 
superb  heights  upon  the  sea.  Night  came  with 
a  weird  moon  looking  ghastly  upon  a  wild 
procession  of  ominous  clouds  scudding  in  fright 
apast  her ;  the  wind  rose  and  woke  the  storm, 
a  terror-struck  sea  dashed  round  them,  and 
for  a  time  the  Hercules  and  her  crew  were  in 

serious   danger.      Eventually   the   captain    was 
170 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

enabled  to  gain  the  port  once  more,  just  as  a 
blood-red  dawn  smeared  the  grey-green  sky 
when  Byron  and  his  friends  chilled,  drenched, 
and  overwrought,  landed.  He  insisted  on  visit- 
ing his  palace  once  more,  and  reached  it  as 
the  triumphant  light  of  the  new-born  day 
made  the  Casa  beautiful  to  the  eyes  of  one 
who  thought  to  behold  it  no  more :  but  the 
poet  reached  his  home  only  to  find  it  a  desolate 
and  an  empty  place  holding  nothing  but 
melancholy  memories  :  for  early  that  morning 
Count  Gamba  had  taken  his  daughter  from 
a  house  whose  every  spot  mocked  her  by  its 
associations  with  happiness,  and  had  driven 
with  her,  half-dazed  and  inert  from  grief,  to 
Boglona.  Throughout  the  day  Byron  looked 
thoughtful  and  depressed,  remarked  with  a 
forced  ironic  laugh  that  such  a  bad  beginning 
of  his  voyage  was  a  favourable  omen  for  its 
happy  ending.  Then  by  a  quick  transit  of 
ideas  he  dwelt  upon  his  past  life  and  touched 
upon  the  uncertainty  of  the  future,  and  turning 
to  Count  Gamba  asked  'Where  shall  we  be 

in  a  year  ? ' 

171 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

It  looked,  as  the  Count  afterwards  stated 
'  like  a  melancholy  foreboding  :  for  on  the  same 
day  of  the  same  month,  in  the  next  year,  he 
was  carried  to  the  tomb  of  his  ancestors.' 

It  took  the  greater  part  of  a  day  to  repair 
the  damage  done  to  the  brig,  and  when  even- 
ing came  Byron  set  sail  once  more.  The 
weather  was  now  favourable  and  the  poet 
endeavoured  to  cast  aside  his  gloom.  In 
August  he  reached  the  Ionian  Isles.  Whilst 
at  Cephalonia  he  wrote  to  the  Countess 
Guiccioli  begging  her  to  be  as  cheerful  and 
tranquil  as  she  could.  '  Be  assured '  he  says 
'  that  there  is  nothing  here  that  can  excite 
anything  but  a  wish  to  be  with  you  again.' 

Later  still  he  tells  her  that  the  moment  he 
can  join  her  will  be  as  welcome  to  him 
as  any  period  of  their  recollection.  From 
Cephalonia  he  set  sail  for  Missolonghi  where 
on  the  22d  of  January  1824,  he  completed 
his  thirty-sixth  year,  on  which  occasion  he 
composed  some  verses  which  he  thought 
were  much  better  than  he  usually  wrote ; 

the  second  of  which  runs  : — 

172 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

'  My  days  are  in  the  yellow  leaf; 
The  flowers  and  fruits  of  love  are  gone  ; 
The  worm,  the  canker,  and  the  grief, 
Are  mine  alone.' 

It  was  on  the  fifteenth  of  the  following 
month  when  harassed,  disappointed  by  in- 
gratitude and  unsettled,  he  was  seized  by 
convulsions  so  violent  that  two  men  were 
obliged  to  hold  him  ;  his  agony  being  so 
intense  the  while  that  he  felt  had  they  lasted 
a  moment  longer  he  must  have  died.  So 
soon  as  he  could  speak  he  showed  himself 
free  from  all  alarm,  and  coolly  asked  if  this 
attack  was  likely  to  prove  fatal.  '  Let  me 
know '  he  said.  '  Do  not  think  I  am  afraid  to 
die — I  am  not.' 

On  the  following  morning  he  was  weak 
and  pale,  and  as  he  complained  of  feeling 
a  weight  in  his  head,  leeches  were  applied 
to  his  temples :  on  their  removal  it  was 
found  difficult  to  prevent  a  flow  of  blood 
and  he  fainted  from  exhaustion.  As  he  was 
lying  in  bed  'with  his  whole  nervous  system 
completely  shaken,  the  mutinous  Suliotes, 
173 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

covered  with  dirt  and  splendid  attires,  broke 
into  his  apartment,  brandishing  their  costly 
arms  and  loudly  demanding  their  wild  rights. 
Lord  Byron  electrified  by  this  unexpected  act, 
seemed  to  recover  from  his  sickness,  and  the 
more  the  Suliotes  raged,  the  more  his  calm 
courage  triumphed.'  The  scene  was  truly- 
sublime  !  as  Colonel  Stanhope  who  was  present 
states. 

•This  scene  was  but  a  supplement  to  '  the 
shooting  and  slashing  in  a  domestic  quiet 
way '  that  formed  part  of  his  housekeeping. 
He  soon  looked  forward  to  the  recovery  of 
his  health  and  the  beginning  of  his  campaign 
when  he  proposed  to  take  the  field  at  the 
head  of  his  own  brigade  and  the  troops  which 
the  Government  of  Greece  were  to  place  under 
his  orders.  But  he  failed  to  recover  so  rapidly 
as  he  expected  ;  for  he  frequently  complained 
of  vertigos  that  made  him  feel  as  if  intoxicated, 
of  nervous  sensations,  of  nervousness  and 
tremours,  all  of  which  he  attributed  to  full 
habit. 

Accordingly  he  lived  on  dry  toast,  vegetables 
174 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

and  cheese,  drank  only  water,  and  continually 
measured  himself  round  the  waist  and  wrists 
when,  if  he  thought  himself  getting  stout  he 
took  strong  doses  of  medicine ;  for  in  leaving 
Italy  he  had  taken  '  medicines  enough  for  the 
supply  of  a  thousand  men  for  a  year.'  His 
friends  strove  to  persuade  him  to  return  to 
Cephalonia  where  he  might  have  a  better 
chance  of  recovering  his  health  than  at 
Missolonghi  where  heavy  rains  had  rendered 
the  swamps  impassable,  and  where  a  plague 
had  broken  out,  so  that  obliged  to  remain  in- 
doors he  had  no  exercise  save  drilling  and 
single  stick  ;  but  he  refused  to  leave. 

Becoming  impatient  of  confinement,  he 
rode  out  one  day  with  Count  Gamba,  when 
they  were  overtaken  by  a  heavy  shower  which 
drenched  them.  A  couple  of  hours  after  the 
poet  had  returned  home  he  was  seized  with 
shudderings  and  complained  of  fever.  But 
next  day  he  was  again  in  the  saddle,  but  once 
more  was  subjected  to  shudderings  which 
caused  him  much  pain.  '  I  do  not  care  for 
death '  he  said  '  but  these  aonies  I  cannot 


bear.'  His  illness  was  pronounced  to  be 
rheumatic  fever  and  he  kept  his  bed.  He  was 
now  unable  to  gain  sleep  or  to  take  nourish- 
ment, he  suffered  from  his  head  and  grew 
weaker.  He  became  afraid  that  he  was  losing 
his  memory  to  test  which  he  repeated  some 
Latin  verses  with  their  English  translation 
which  he  had  not  striven  to  remember  since 
his  school-days. 

His  doctors  wished  to  reduce  his  inflammatory 
symptoms  by  bleeding,  but  to  this  he  offered 
the  strongest  objection,  quoting  from  an  essay 
recently  published  that  less  slaughter  was 
effected  by  the  lance  than  by  the  lancet :  and 
stating  that  they  might  do  what  they  pleased 
with  him,  but  bleed  him  they  should  not.  If 
his  hour  had  come,  he  would  die,  whether  he 
lost  or  kept  his  blood.  •» 

These  persuasions  were  renewed  next  day, 
they  telling  him  that  unless  he  changed  his 
resolution  his  disease  might  operate  in  such  a 
way  as  to  deprive  him  for  ever  of  reason  :  an 
argument  that  had  its  effect,  for  partly  annoyed 

and  partly  persuaded,  he  cast  at   the  doctor's 
176 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

the  fiercest  glance  of  vexation,  and  throwing 
out  his  arm  said  in  the  angriest  tone  '  There, 
you  are  I  see  a  damned  set  of  butchers,  take 
away  as  much  blood  as  you  like  but  have  done 
with  it.' 

The  blood  was  drawn  but  the  result  not 
being  such  as  was  expected  the  operation 
was  twice  repeated  next  day,  as  appearances 
of  inflammation  of  the  brain  were  hourly  in- 
creasing. Count  Gamba,  and  the  poet's  valet 
Fletcher,  were  in  tears  which  they  strove  to 
conceal  by  hastening  from  the  room.  Captain 
Parry  who  had  formed  the  expedition 
says  that  '  in  all  the  attendants  there  was 
the  officiousness  of  zeal :  but  owing  to  their 
ignorance  of  each  other's  language,  their  zeal 
only  added  to  the  confusion.  This  circum- 
stance, and  the  want  of  common  necessaries, 
made  Lord  Byron's  apartment  such  a  picture 
of  distress  and  even  anguish  during  the  last 
two  or  three  days  of  his  life,  as  I  never  be- 
fore beheld  and  wish  never  again  to  witness.' 

The  end  came  soon.  Periods  of  delirium 
ensued,  followed  by  recovery  of  conscious- 

VOL.   I.  177  M 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

ness.  On  being  asked  by  Fletcher  whether 
he  should  bring  pen  and  paper  to  take  down 
his  words,  Byron  answered  '  There  is  no  time 
—it  is  now  nearly  over.  Go  to  my  sister 
tell  her — go  to  Lady  Byron  you  will  see  her 
and  say — '  then  his  voice  became  indistinct 
and  he  muttered. 

'  My  lord '  said  the  sorrowing  Fletcher  '  I 
have  not  understood  a  word  your  lordship 
has  been  saying.' 

'  Not  understood  me  ? '  said  Byron  in  bitter 
distress  '  what  a  pity — then  it  is  too  late — all 
is  over.' 

'  I  hope  not '  answered  the  valet  '  but  the 
Lord's  will  be  done.' 

'  Yes,  not  mine '  the  poet  replied. 

A  strong  antispasmodic  potion  was  given 
hirn  which  produced  sleep.  When  he  woke 
he  said  '  Why  was  I  not  aware  of  this  sooner  ? 
My  hour  is  come,  I  do  not  care  for  death, 
but  why  did  I  not  go  home  before  I  came 
here.  There  are  things  which  make  the  world 
dear  to  me ;  for  the  rest  I  am  content  to  die.' 

Towards   six    in   the  evening  he  said  '  Now 
178 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

I  shall  go  to  sleep '  and  turning  round  he 
fell  into  a  slumber  from  which  he  woke  no 
more:  his  death  happened  on  the  iQth  of 
April  1824. 

One  evening  in  the  following  month  news 
was  brought  to  the  Palazzo  Belvedere  of 
Byron's  death,  news  which  coming  suddenly 
upon  its  residents,  filled  them  with  awe  and 
gloom.  For  that  night  and  for  days  to  come, 
their  spirits  were  subdued,  and  their  thoughts 
were  turned  in  the  same  direction.  Each 
recalled  some  trait  of  the  poet's ;  some  char- 
acteristic speech  ;  they  dwelt  upon  his  fare- 
well visit  to  them,  and  valued  more  than  before 
the  trifling  gifts  he  had  given  them.  Lady 
Blessington  read  over  the  notes  she  had  made 
of  his  conversations,  and  as  she  did  it  seemed 
as  if  his  voice  had  spoken  the  words. 

'  Alas,  alas '  she  writes  '  his  presentiment 
of  dying  in  Greece  has  been  but  too  well 
fulfilled  —  and  I  used  to  banter  him  on  this 
superstitious  presentiment.  Poor  Byron,  long, 
long  will  you  be  remembered  by  us  with  feel- 
ings of  deep  regret' 

179 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

After  a  residence  of  nearly  three  years  in 
Naples  the  Blessingtons  resolved  to  leave 
that  city  of  delight.  The  length  of  her  stay 
and  her  attachment  to  the  people  made  it 
painful  for  the  Countess  to  depart.  During 
the  last  week  of  her  sojourn  her  salon  was 
nightly  crowded  by  those  who  were  anxious 
to  spend  as  much  time  as  possible  in  her 
company ;  whilst  a  vast  number  of  gifts  were 
given  her  by  way  of  remembrances. 

She  could  not  bring  herself  to  think  she 
was  quitting  Naples  for  ever,  and  she  strove 
to  keep  her  spirits  up  by  a  hope  of  revisiting 
a  place  so  full  of  happy  memories  ;  but  when 
the  time  came  for  saying  farewell  she  cried 
bitterly  and  freely,  her  friends  being  not  less 
moved. 

Leaving  Naples  they  hurried  through  Rome, 
made  a  short  stay  at  Florence,  and  reached 
Genoa  in  December  1826.  Lord  Blessington 
had  now  determined  to  return  to  England,  but 
eventually  he  changed  his  mind,  and  they  re- 
tracing their  steps,  spent  about  six  months  in 

Pisa ;     and     in    the    spring    of    1 827    arrived 
180 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

in  Florence  then  rich  in  the  wealth  of  its 
flowers. 

At  first  they  stayed  at  the  hotel  Schneiderff, 
but  the  perpetual  bustle  and  the  continual 
odour  of  cooking  fatigued  my  lady  who  sought 
for  a  quieter  residence  and  eventually  took 
the  Casa  Pecori,  which  had  once  belonged  to 
Elise  Bacciocchi  Duchess  of  Tuscany.  The 
villa  was  charmingly  situated,  its  principal 
windows  opening  on  a  terrace  bordered  by 
orange  trees  and  overlooking  the  Arno. 

Once  established  here  the  Blessingtons 
threw  open  their  doors  and  received  the 
most  distinguished  men  of  the  day.  Amongst 
these  were  two  who  particularly  interested  their 
hostess :  one  being  Monsieur  de  Lamartine 
the  French  poet,  statesman  and  traveller  ;  the 
other  a  man  of  rare  genius,  Walter  Savage 
Landor. 

Lady  Blessington's  impressions  of  Lamartine 
are  amusing  to  read :  according  to  her  he 
had  'a  presence  cf  esprit  not  often  to  be  met 
with  in  the  generality  of  poets  ;  and  a  perfect 

freedom     from     any     of    the     affectations     of 
181 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

manner  attributed  to  that  genus  irritabile? 
But  more  remains  behind  :  for  we  learn  he  was 
handsome,  distinguished  '  and  dresses  so  per- 
fectly like  a  gentleman  that  one  would  never 
suspect  him  to  be  a  poet.  No  shirt-collars 
turned  over  an  apology  for  a  cravat,  no  long 
curls  falling  on  the  collar  of  the  coat,  no 
assumption  of  any  foppishness  of  any  kind  ; 
but  just  the  sort  of  man  that  seen  in  any 
society  would  be  pronounced  bien  couune  il 
faut!  Lord  Blessington  had  been  previously 
acquainted  with  Landor  and  on  coming  to 
Florence  the  Earl  soon  sought  out  the  author 
whom  he  subsequently  introduced  to  Lady 
Blessington.  Concerning  him  she  had  heard 
much  from  acquaintances  and  had  looked 
forward  to  their  meeting  with  some  anxiety. 
Landor  who  was  at  this  time  in  his  fifty- 
first  year,  was  a  Warwickshire  squire,  a  learned 
scholar,  a  man  of  original  mind,  and  the 
author  of  Imaginary  Conversations.  Even 
whilst  a  Rugby  boy  he  became  famous  for 
his  skill  in  making  Latin  verses,  and  later 

when  he  entered    Trinity    College    Oxford,  he 
182 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

was  not  less  renowned  for  his  ability  to  make 
Greek  verse.  Though  these  were,  according 
to  his  own  belief,  the  best  in  the  university, 
it  was  strongly  characteristic  of  him  that  here, 
as  at  Rugby,  he  refused  to  compete  for  the 
prizes. 

The  waywardness  of  his  temper,  his  unbend- 
ing will,  his  defiance  of  authority  and  self- 
reliance,  had  shown  themselves  from  an  early 
age.  When  as  a  sturdy  lad  he  went  a-fishing 
with  a  cast  net  and  met  with  a  farmer  who 
interfered  with  this  pastime,  Landor  replied 
by  flinging  the  net  over  him  and  holding  him 
captive  ;  when  Dr  James  headmaster  of  Rugby 
selected  for  approbation  some  verses  which 
Landor  did  not  consider  his  best,  he  gratified 
his  indignation  by  writing  on  the  fair  copy 
made  of  them,  some  insulting  remarks,  and  this 
action  being  repeated,  Dr  James  asked  that 
the  boy  might  be  removed  to  avoid  the 
necessity  of  expulsion. 

Whilst  at  Oxford  which  he  entered  in  1793, 
he  gave  offence  by    going   into   the  hall  with 
his   hair    unpowdered    by    way   of    illustrating 
183 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

his  tendencies  to  republicanism  ;  he  wrote  an 
ode  to  Washington,  and  was  not  displeased 
to  be  termed  '  a  mad  Jacobine.'  Later  followed 
a  freak  which  brought  him  into  trouble.  One 
evening  whilst  entertaining  friends  at  a  wine 
party  he  saw  that  a  Tory  undergraduate 
who  occupied  rooms  opposite,  was  similarly 
engaged,  though  the  guests  of  the  latter  ac- 
cording to  Landor  'consisted  of  servitors  and 
other  raffs  of  every  description.'  Taunts  and 
jeers  were  exchanged  by  both  parties  until 
the  Tories  closed  their  window  shutters,  on 
which  Landor  treated  them  to  a  few  shots. 
Though  no  harm  was  done  much  noise  was 
made.  Landor  refused  all  explanations  and 
Avas  as  a  consequence  rusticated  for  a  year. 

This  widened  a  misunderstanding  which 
had  already  existed  between  himself  and  his 
father,  a  stormy  scene  followed  their  meeting, 
when  Landor  left  his  father's  house  as  he 
declared  and  believed  for  ever,  and  going  up 
to  London  published  a  volume  of  English  and 
Latin  poems. 

Eventually  peace  was   made  between   father 
184 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

and  son ;  when  the  former  offered  the  latter 
four  hundred  a  year  if  he  would  study  law ;  but 
proposed  to  give  him  a  hundred  and  fifty  a  year 
with  permission  to  live  at  home  whenever  he 
pleased,  if  he  refused  to  take  up  a  profession. 
Walter  who  all  his  life  hated  restraint,  preferred 
liberty  and  the  smaller  sum,  and  taking  him- 
self into  Wales  remained  there  some  three 
years.  His  father  died  in  1805,  when  Walter 
being  the  eldest  son  had  money  and  to  spare. 
Three  years  after  this  date,  when  the  Spaniards 
rose  against  the  French,  Landor  joined  the 
Spanish  army  in  whose  expeditions  he  took 
part. 

When  he  was  six-and-thirty  and  at  a  period 
when  he  was  writing  '  Count  Julian '  he  one 
night  entered  a  ballroom  at  Bath,  and  seeing  a 
pretty  girl  asked  her  name.  He  was  told  it 
was  Julia  Thuillier,  on  which  he  exclaimed  '  By 
Heaven  that's  the  nicest  girl  in  the  room,  and 
I'll  marry  her.'  A  few  days  later  he  writes  to 
his  friend  Southey  '  It  is  curious  that  the  even- 
ing of  my  beginning  to  transcribe  the  tragedy, 
Iffell  in  love.  I  have  found  a  girl  without  a 
185 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

sixpence,  and  with  very  few  accomplishments. 
She  is  pretty,  graceful,  and  good-tempered- 
three  things  indispensable  to  my  happiness. 
Adieu  and  congratulate  me.'  Later  he  spoke 
to  his  mother  of  his  intended  bride  as  a  girl 
'  who  had  no  pretensions  of  any  kind,  and  her 
want  of  fortune  was  the  very  thing  which  deter- 
mined me  to  marry  her.'  The  marriage  took 
place  in  haste  and  was  repented  at  leisure. 
Mrs  Landor  was  a  simple  insignificant  little 
woman  who  bore  children,  delighted  in  house- 
keep,  and  exhibited  a  nagging  disposition  to 
her  husband.  '  God  forbid,'  Landor  said  on 
one  occasion  '  that  I  should  do  otherwise  than 
declare  that  she  always  was  agreeable  —  to 
everyone  but  me.' 

A  couple  of  years  after  his  marriage  he 
resolved  to  live  in  France,  a  plan  to  which  his 
wife  strongly  objected.  In  what  part  of  that 
country  he  would  end  his  days  he  had  not  yet 
decided,  '  but  there  I  shall  end  them'  he  writes 
to  a  friend  '  and  God  grant  that  I  may  end 
them  speedily,  so  as  to  leave  as  little  sorrow 

as  possible -to  my  friends.'     No  day  passed  that 
1 86 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

his  wife  did  not  urge  her  disinclination  to  live 
abroad,  he  subdued  his  temper  'the  worst 
beyond  comparison  that  man  was  ever  cursed 
with  '  as  he  acknowledges.  One  evening  whilst 
they  were  staying  at  Jersey  her  irritating  ob- 
jections were  renewed ;  she  nagged  for  an  hour 
and  a  half  without  a  syllable  of  reply  from  him 
'  but  every  kind  and  tender  sentiment  was 
rooted  up  from  my  heart  for  ever '  he  writes. 
At  last  exasperated  she  who  was  sixteen  years 
his  junior,  reproached  herself  with  '  marrying 
such  an  old  man.' 

Landor  could  stand  this  no  longer  and  hurried 
away  to  his  room,  heart  sick  and  weary,  and 
remained  tossing  about,  broad  awake  for  hours. 
He  rose  at  four  o'clock,  walked  to  the  other 
side  of  the  island  and  embarked  alone  on  an 
oyster  boat  bound  for  France,  resolved  never  to 
see  her  more. 

'  I  have  neither  wife  nor  family,  nor  house  nor 
home,  nor  pursuit,  nor  occupation '  he  writes. 
'  Every  man  alive  will  blame  me ;  many  will 
calumniate  me  ;  and  all  will  cherish  and  rejoice 
in  the  calumny.  All  that  were  not  unjust  to  me 
187 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

before  will  be  made  unjust  to  me  by  her.  A 
thousand  times  have  I  implored  her  not  to  drive 
me  to  destruction  :  to  be  contented  if  I  acknow- 
ledged myself  in  the  wrong :  to  permit  me  to  be 
at  once  of  her  opinion,  and  not  to  think  a  con- 
versation incomplete  without  a  quarrel.  The 
usual  reply  was,  "  A  pleasant  sort  of  thing 
truly,  that  you  are  never  to  be  contradicted." 
As  if  it  were  extraordinary  and  strange  that 
one  should  wish  to  avoid  it.  She  never  was 
aware  that  more  can  be  said  in  one  minute  than 
can  be  forgotten  in  a  lifetime.' 

Poor  Landor,  no  wonder  he  wrote  years  later 
'  Death  itself  to  the  reflecting  mind  is  less  serious 
than  marriage.' 

A  reconciliation  was  in  due  time  effected 
when  his  sister-in-law  wrote  to  acquaint  him 
of  his  wife's  extreme  grief,  with  the  fact  that 
she  was  seriously  ill,  and  of  her  desire  to 
join  him.  This  banished  from  his  generous 
mind  all  traces  of  resentment  and  he  '  wrote 
instantly  to  comfort  and  console  her.'  '  My  own 
fear  is '  he  adds  '  that  I  shall  never  be  able  to 

keep  my  promise  in   its  full  extent,  to  forgive 
1 88 


LADY  BLESS1NGTON 

humiliating  and  insulting  language.  Certainly 
I  shall  never  be  so  happy  as  I  was  before :  that 
is  beyond  all  question.' 

They  settled  in  town  for  some  time  and  then 
went  to  Italy  living  for  three  years  at  Como 
where  his  first  child  was  born.  An  insult  to  the 
authorities  contained  in  a  Latin  poem  was  the 
cause  of  his  being  ordered  to  leave  the  place, 
when  he  went  on  to  Pisa  where  he  remained 
some  three  years  before  settling  in  a  suite  of 
rooms  in  the  Palazzo  Medice  in  Florence  in 
1821.  Here  he  became  a  notable  figure  re- 
marked by  all  for  his  eccentricities,  beloved  by 
many  for  his  characteristics.  His  courtesy  to 
women  was  only  equalled  by  his  love  of  children  : 
his  generosity  was  ever  excessive ;  his  affection 
for  animals  led  him  to  treat  them  as  human 
beings  ;  and  flowers  were  to  him  as  living  things. 
But  his  temper  forever  banished  peace. 

Scarcely  had  he  been  settled  in  Florence  when 
he  conceived  himself  to  have  been  treated  '  with 
marked  indignation '  by  the  Secretary  of  the 
English  Legation,  so  that  he  was  obliged  to  ask 

that   individual   '  in  what  part   of  England    or 
189 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

France  they  might  become  better  acquainted 
in  a  few  minutes.'  The  offending  individual 
was  a  poor  spirited  wretch  who  had  no  taste  for 
a  duel ;  but  it  appeared  there  was  no  end  to  the 
insults  he  was  capable  of  offering ;  for  he  posi- 
tively presumed  to  whistle  in  the  streets  whilst 
passing  Mrs  Landor.  '  This '  her  husband  thinks 
'  has  affected  her  health,  and  I  am  afraid  may 
oblige  me  to  put  him  to  death  before  we  can 
reach  England.  Is  it  not  scandalous  that  our 
ministry  should  employ  such  men  ?  I  have  a 
presentiment  that  you  will  hear  something  of  me 
which  you  would  rather  not  hear,  but  my  name 
shall  be  respected  as  long  as  it  is  remembered.' 
Blood  was  spared  over  this  affair,  but  not  ink  : 
for  Landor  wrote  a  letter  to  the  Foreign  Minister 
in  Downing  Street  telling  him  that  some  curious 
facts  were  in  his  possession  '  concerning  more 
than  one  of  4he  wretches  he  has  employed 
abroad.' 

Later  than  this  he  accused  his  landlord  the 
Marquis  de  Medici  of  having  enticed  away 
his  coachman.  Next  day  whilst  Landor,  his 

wife,    and    some    friends   were    sitting   in    the 
190 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

drawing-room  the  offended  Marquis  came  strut- 
tine  in  with  his  hat  on:  but  he  had  not  ad- 

o 

vanced  three  steps  from  the  door  when  Landor 
walked  quickly  up  to  him,  knocked  his  hat 
off  and  then  taking  him  by  the  arm  conducted 
the  astonished  Marquis  to  the  door. 

As  to  his  personal  appearance  Landor  was 
wholly  indifferent.  It  was  his  custom  to 
wear  his  clothes  until  they  could  scarcely 
hang  together ;  and  years  before  when  he 
used  to  visit  his  sisters,  who  were  offended  by 
his  carelessness  in  this  respect,  they  would 
leave  new  garments  by  his  bedside  which  he 
would  put  on  in  the  morning  without  dis- 
covering the  change. 

The  wondering  Italians  on  seeing  him  used 
to  say  all  the  English  were  mad,  but  this 
one  more  than  the  rest. 

Many  English  visitors  to  Florence  made 
the  acquaintance  and  friendship  of  this  original 
man,  but  with  none  of  them  did  he  become 
so  intimate  as  with  the  Blessingtons.  The 
strong  magnetic  charm  which  few  who  ap- 
proached Lady  Blessington  failed  to  experi- 
191 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

ence,  was  felt  from  the  first  by  Landor  whom 
it  swayed  to  the  end.  On  her  part  she  was 
struck  by  the  dignity  and  urbanity  of  his 
manner,  his  fearless  courage  in  the  expression 
of  his  opinions,  his  contempt  for  what  he 
considered  unworthy,  the  simplicity  of  his 
mode  of  life  from  which  self-gratification  was 
rigidly  excluded,  his  profuse  generosity  and 
his  almost  womanly  tenderness. 

She  had  been  led  to  think  him  eccentric 
and  violent,  but  she  confesses  that  the  only 
singularity  she  can  find  in  him  is  '  his  more 
than  ordinary  politeness  towards  women — 
a  singularity  that  I  heartily  wish  was  one 
no  longer.'  Then  his  fine  intellectual  head 
with  its  broad  prominent  forehead,  the  eyes 
quick  and  expressive,  and  the  mouth  full  of 
benevolence,  pleased  her  greatly. 

Finding  Lady  Blessington  sympathetic  and 
charming,  a  brilliant  conversationalist  and 
what  was  more  a  willing  listener,  Walter 
Savage  Landor  visited  her  every  evening  from 
eight  to  eleven,  as  he  narrates,  during  his 
stay  in  Florence,  and  when  he  moved  to 


LA  D  V  BLESSING  TON 

Fiesole  a  distance  of  three  miles,  he  spent 
two  evenings  a  week  in  her  delightful  com- 
pany. 

And  what  conversations  they  had,  for  on 
any  and  on  every  subject  he  was  ready  and 
willing  to  vent  decided  opinions  in  vigorous 
English,  an  idea  of  which  may  be  gained 
from  the  contents  of  his  letters.  For  instance 
she  must  not  praise  him  for  his  admiration 
of  Wordsworth  and  Southey.  That  was  only 
a  proof  that  he  was  not  born  to  be  a  poet. 
He  was  not  a  good  hater ;  he  only  hated 
pain  and  trouble.  He  thought  he  could  have 
hated  Bonaparte  if  he  had  been  a  gentleman, 
but  he  was  so  thorough  a  blackguard,  thief, 
and  swindler,  that  wherever  he  appeared  con- 
tempt held  the  shield  before  hatred.  Robert 
Stewart,  Viscount  Castlereagh,  afterwards  second 
Marquis  of  Londonderry,  was  almost  as  mischiev- 
ous and  was  popularly  a  gentleman,  but  being 
an  ignorant  and  a  weak  creature  he  escaped  from 
hatred  without  a  bruise.  And  wasn't  it  remark- 
able how  very  few  people  of  the  name  of  Stewart 

had   ever   been    good    for   anything.      He   had 
VOL.  i.  193  N 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

known  a  dozen  or  two,  and  the  best  of  them 
was  Dan  Stewart  a  poacher  at  Oxford  whom 
he  had  introduced  into  his  '  Penn  and  Peter- 
borow.' 

It  was  amongst  the  few  felicities  of  his 
life  that  he  had  never  been  attached  to  a 
party  or  been  a  party  man.  He  had  always 
excused  himself  from  dinners  that  he  might 

o 

not  meet  one.  The  English  must  be  the  most 
quiet  and  orderly  people  in  the  universe,  not  to 
rush  into  the  houses  of  the  rapacious  dema- 
gogues, and  tie  them  by  the  necks  in  couples 
and  throw  them  tutti  quanti  into  the 
Thames. 

As  for  himself,  he  never  cared  one  farthing 
what  people  thought  about  him,  and  had  always 
avoided  the  intercourse  and  notice  of  the  world. 
He  would  readily  stand  up  to  be  measured  by 
those  who  were  high  enough  to  measure  him — 
men  such  as  Coleridge,  Southey,  and  Words- 
worth. They  had  done  it,  and  as  their  measure- 
ment agreed  he  was  bound  to  believe  it  correct, 
although  his  own  fingers  would  have  made  him 

an  inch  lower.     A  little  while  ago  he  was  praised 
194 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

only  by  such  as  these.  Taylor  and  Leigh  Hunt, 
both  admirable  poets,  had  since  measured  him 
beyond  his  expectations.  He  did  not  believe 
such  kind  things  would  be  said  of  him  for  at 
least  a  century  to  come.  Perhaps  soon,  even 
fashionable  persons  would  pronounce  his  name 
without  an  apology,  and  he  might  be  patted  on 
the  head  by  dandies  with  all  the  gloss  upon 
their  coats,  and  with  unfrayed  straps  to  their 
trousers.  Who  knew  but  that  he  might  be  en- 
couraged at  last  to  write  as  they  instructed 
him,  and  might  attract  all  the  gay  people  of 
the  parks  and  parliament  by  his  puff-paste  and 
powder-sugar  surface. 

Then  it  occurred  to  him  that  authors  were 
beginning  to  think  it  an  honest  thing  to  pay 
their  debts,  and  that  they  are  debtors  to  all  by 
whose  labour  and  charges,  the  fields  of  literature 
have  been  cleared  and  sown.  Few  writers 
have  said  all  the  good  they  thought  and  said 
of  others,  and  fewer  have  concealed  the 
ill.  They  praise  their  friends,  because  their 
friends,  it  may  be  hoped,  will  praise  them — or 
get  them  praised.  As  these  propensities  seemed 
195 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

inseparable  from  the  literary  character,  he  had 
always  kept  aloof  from  authors  where  he  could. 
Southey  stood  erect  and  stood  alone.  Landor 
loved  him  no  less  for  his  integrity  than  for  his 
genius. 

Then  he  had  been  reading  Beckford's  travels 
and  his  romance  VatJieck.  The  last  pleased 
him  less  than  it  did  forty  years  before,  and  yet 
the  Arabian  Nights  had  lost  none  of  their  charm 
for  him.  All  the  learned  and  wiseacres  in 
England  had  cried  out  against  the  wonderful 
work  upon  its  first  appearance ;  Gray  amongst 
the  rest.  Yet  Landor  doubted  whether  any 
man,  except  Shakespeare,  had  afforded  so  much 
delight  if  we  open  our  hearts  to  receive  it.  The 
author  of  the  Arabian  Nights  was  the  greatest 
benefactor  the  East  ever  had,  not  excepting 
Mahomet.  How  many  hours  of  pure  happiness 
had  he  bestowed  on  twenty-six  millions  of 
hearers.  All  the  springs  of  the  desert  have  less 
refreshed  the  Arabs  than  those  delightful  tales, 
and  they  cast  their  gems  and  genii  over  our 
benighted  and  foggy  regions. 

Regarding  dogs,  somebody  had  told  him  the 
196 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

illustrious  Goethe  hated  dogs.  God  forgive  him 
if  he  did.  He  never  could  believe  it  of  him. 
Dogs  were  half  poets  ;  they  were  dreamers. 
Did  any  other  animals  dream  ?  For  his  own 
part  he  loved  them  heartily :  they  were  grateful, 
they  were  brave,  they  were  communicative,  and 
they  never  played  cards. 

Then  as  to  his  children  whom  he  worshipped. 
He  could  scarcely  bring  his  eldest  son  Arnold  to 
construe  Greek  with  him,  and  what  was  worse 
he  was  not  always  disposed  to  fence.  Landor 
foresaw  the  boy  would  be  a  worse  dancer  if  pos- 
sible than  his  father.  In  vain  he  told  him  what 
was  true,  that  he  had  suffered  more  from  his 
bad  dancing  than  from  all  the  other  misfortunes 
and  miseries  of  his  life  put  together.  Not  danc- 
ing well  he  had  never  danced  at  all. 

More  than  any  words  of  friends  or  biographers, 
a  letter  written  by  himself  throws  a  vivid  light 
upon  the  original  character  of  this  man.  Lady 
Blessington  years  later  expressed  a  wish  that  he 
could  be  persuaded  to  write  his  memoirs.  '  What 
a  treasure  would  they  prove  to  posterity'  she 

says  'tracing  the  working  of  such  a  mind   as 
197 


THE  MOST  GOKGEOUS 

yours,  a  mind  that  has  never  submitted  to  the 
ignoble  fetters  that  a  corrupt  and  artificial 
society  would  impose,  could  not  fail  to  be 
highly  interesting  as  well  as  useful,  by  giving 
courage  to  the  timid  and  strength  to  the  weak, 
and  teaching  them  to  rely  on  their  intellectual 
resources,  instead  of  leaning  on  that  feeble  reed 
the  world,  which  can  wound  but  not  support 
those  who  rely  on  it.' 

To  which  Landor  made  prompt  answer — 

'DEAR  LADY  BLESSINGTON, — It  has  quite 
escaped  my  memory  whether  I  made  any  reply 
or  remark  on  your  flattering  observation,  that 
my  life,  written  by  myself,  would  interest  the 
literary  world  and  others.  However,  as  you 
have  repeated  it,  I  will  say  a  few  words  on  the 
subject.  I  have  always  been  cautious  and 
solicitous  to  avoid  the  notice  of  the  publick  ;  I 
mean  individually  and  personally.  Whatever 
I  can  write  or  do  for  their  good  is  much  at 
their  service,  and  I  do  not  disdain  to  amuse 
them,  altho'  I  would  not  take  any  trouble 
about  it.  As  for  their  curiosity  in  regard  to 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

myself,  it  must  remain  ungratified.  So  little 
did  I  court  the  notice  of  people  even  when 
young,  that  I  gave  my  Latin  poems,  etc.,  to  the 
printer  on  one  only  condition,  namely,  that  he 
should  not  even  advertise  them  in  the  papers. 
I  never  accepted  an  invitation  to"  dinner  in 
London,  excepting  at  your  house  and  Sir 
Charles  Morgan's,  once.  He  had  taken  a  good 
deal  of  trouble  to  bring  thro'  Parliament  an 
Inclosure  Act  of  mine,  in  which,  by  means  of 
Sir  Charles  Mordaunt,  Dugdale,  himself,  Lord 
Manvers  and  Lord  Walsingham,  and  I  must 
not  forget  Lord  Oxford,  I  defeated  the  Duke 
of  Beaufort  and  his  family,  but  encountered  so 
much  opposition  that  altho'  I  had  saved  a 
thousand  pounds  for  my  purpose,  hardly  one 
shilling  was  left,  and  my  four  thousand  acres 
were  and  are  still  unenclosed.  My  own  life- 
holders  opposed  me,  for  there  were  but  three 
freeholders  in  the  parish,  and  very  small  ones. 
My  own  land  was  calculated  at  about  eight 
thousand  acres;  half  enclosed,  half  not.  I 
always  hated  society  and  despised  opinion. 

Added  to  which,  I  must  of  necessity  be  a  liar 
199 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

in  writing  my  life,  since  to  conceal  a  truth  or 
give  a  partial  evidence  is  to  lie.  «\1  spent  thir- 
teen winters  of  my  early  life  in  Bath,  which  at 
that  time  was  frequented  by  the  very  best 
society.  I  was  courted  in  spite  of  my  bad 
temper,  my  unconciliating  manners  (to  speak 
gently  of  them)  and  my  republican  opinions,  I 
once  even  inspired  love.  There  is  no  vanity  in 
saying  it.  An  old  man  or  an  old  woman  may  say, 
pointing  at  the  fireplace,  "  These  ashes  were  once 
wood."  But  there  are  two  things  in  this  world 
utterly  unpardonable — to  say  and  to  forget  by 
whom  we  have  been  beloved.  My  rocks  of 
Meillerie  rise,  but  it  is  only  in  solitude  that  I 
will  ever  gaze  upon  them.  I  have  nothing  to 
do  with  people,  nor  people  with  me.  A  phren- 
ologist once  told  me  that  he  observed  the  mark 
of  veneration  on  my  head.  I  told  him  in  return 
that  I  could  give  him  a  proof  of  it.  I  would 
hold  the  stirrup  for  Kosciusko,  the  brandy- 
bottle  for  Hofer,  the  standish  for  Southey,  and 
I  declare  to  you  upon  oath  that  I  firmly  believe' 
myself  superior  to  any  duke,  prince,  king,  em- 
peror, or  pope  existing,  as  the  best  of  these 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

fellows  is  superior  to  the  most  sluggish  and 
mangy  turnspit  in  his  dominions  ;  and  I  swear 
to  you  that  I  never  will  be,  if  I  can  help  it, 
where  any  such  folks  are-VWhy  should  I  tell 
my  countrymen  these  things  ?  Why  should  I 
make  the  worst-tempered  nation  in  the  world 
more  sullen  and  morose  than  ever?  I  love 
good  manners,  and  therefore  keep  out  of  their 
way,  avoiding  all  possibility  of  offence.  I  have 
been  reading  Sir  Egerton  Brydges'  Autobio- 
graphy. In  one  of  the  pages  I  wrote  down 
this  remark :  Poor  man !  He  seems  to  be 
writing  in  the  month  of  January  in  the  city  of 
London,  the  wind  north-east,  with  his  skin  off. 
I  would  not  live  in  London  the  six  winter 
months  for  a  thousand  pounds  a  week.  No, 
not  even  with  the  privilege  of  hanging  a  Tory 
on  every  lamp-arm  to  the  right,  and  a  Whig 
on  every  one  to  the  left  the  whole  extent  of 
Piccadilly.  This  goes  sadly  against  my  patriot- 
ism. Do  not  tell  any  of  the  Radicals  that  I  am 
grown  so  indifferent  to  the  interests  of  our 
country.  It  appears  that  you  have  a  change  of 
ministry.  I  hope  the  Tories  will  leave  Mr 


20 1 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Seymour  his  situation  here  as  minister.  He  is 
the  first  in  Tuscany  that  ever  did  his  duty. 
How  different  from  the  idle  profligate  fiddler 
you  remember  here,  and  the  insolent  adventurer 
Dawkins.  This  ragamuffin,  now  minister  in 
Greece,  has  lately  been  well  described  in  the 
only  work  upon  that  country  of  any  great  use 
or  merit,  by  Tiersch.  Abundant  proofs  are 
given  of  his  negligence  and  stupidity.  Who 
would  imagine  that  he  had  profited  so  little  by 
living  in  such  intimate  familiarity  with  all  the 
swindlers,  spies,  and  jockeys  in  Tuscany  ? 
However,  he  is  much  improved,  I  hear.  If  he 
has  not  clean  hands,  he  has  clean  gloves.  I 
have  reason  to  believe  that  King  Otho  has 
been  informed  of  his  character  and  of  his  sub- 
servience to  the  arbitrary  acts  of  Capo  D'Istra.' 


CHAPTER     VII 

Landor  and  Lord  Blessington  sail  for  Naples — 
Lander's  Delight  in  the  Bay — His  Impetuosity — 
The  Blessingtons  leave  Florence — The  Palazzo 
Negroni  at  Rome —Attending  a  Bal  Masque — 
Fallen  Kings  and  Queens  —  The  Mother 
of  Napoleon  —  Countess  Guiccioli  —  Byron's 
Will— Lord  Blessington's  Will— Count  D'Orsay's 
Marriage  —  Letter  to  Landor  —  Once  more  in 
Genoa — The  Story  of  Teresina — Lord  Blessing- 
ton's  Gift. 

BEFORE  the  summer  closed  Lord  Blessington 
invited  Landor  to  accompany  him  in  his  yacht 
to  Naples  on  an  excursion  which  he  was  sure 
would  give  pleasure  to  both.  To  this  sugges- 
tion Landor  readily  agreed,  for  he  had  never 
seen  Naples  and  as  he  wrote  to  his  sister  he 
'  never  could  see  it  to  such  advantage  as  in  the 
company  of  a  most  delightful  well-informed 
man.'  Lady  Blessington  remained  in  Florence 

whilst  the  friends  made  their  voyage. 
203 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Landor  was  delighted  with  all  he  saw.  Those 
who  had  not  seen  the  Bay  of  Naples  could 
form  no  idea  of  its  beauty  from  anything  they 
had  beheld  elsewhere.  La  Cava  was  of  all  places 
one  of  the  most  beautiful.  '  It  lies  in  the  way 
to  Paestum.  The  ruins  of  the  temples  here, 
if  ruins  they  can  be  called,  are  magnificent  : 
but  Grecian  architecture  does  not  turn  into 
ruin  so  grandly  as  Gothic.  York  Cathedral 
a  thousand  years  hence,  when  the  Americans 
have  conquered  and  devastated  the  country, 
will  be  more  striking.' 

His  pleasant  trip  was  suddenly  interrupted. 
At  the  time  of  his  leaving  Florence  his  boy 
Arnold,  just  recovered  from  a  fever,  had  been 
pronounced  quite  convalescent,  and  had  given 
his  Babbo,  as  he  styled  his  father,  leave  of 
absence  for  twenty-five  days.  On  reaching 
Naples  Landor  failed  to  and  a  letter  from 
home  awaiting  him.  '  I  was  almost  mad  '  he 
wrote  to  his  sister  '  for  I  fancied  his  illness 
had  returned.  I  hesitated  between  drowning 
myself  and  going  post  back.  At  last  I  took 

a  place  (the  only  one ;  for  one  only  is  allowed 
204 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

with  the  postman  in  what  is  called  the  dili- 
gence). Meanwhile  Lord  Blessington  told  me 
he  would  instantly  set  sail  if  I  wished  it,  and 
that  I  could  go  quicker  by  sea.  I  did  so ; 
and  we  arrived  in  four  days  at  Leghorn. 

'  Here  he  gave  me  a  note  enclosed  in  a  letter 
to  him,  informing  me  that  Julia  had  been  in 
danger  of  her  life,  but  was  now  better.  «  I 
found  her  quite  unable  to  speak  coherently ; 
and  unhappily  she  was  in  the  country.  Never- 
theless the  physician,  who  sometimes  passed 
the  whole  day  with  her,  and  once  slept  at  the 
house,  never  omitted  for  forty-three  days  to 
visit  her  twice  a  day,  and  now  by  his  great 
care  she  has  reached  Florence.  I  brought  her 
part  of  the  way  by  means  of  oxen,  on  the 
sledge,  and  upon  two  mattresses.  To-day  the 
physician  will  attend  her  for  the  last 
time.' 

Mrs  Landor  had  caught  a  malignant  fever 
which  the  youngest  child  had  likewise  taken, 
a  fever  that  might  have  spread  to  the  other 
children  had  not  Lady  Blessington  driven  to 

where  they  were  then  staying  in  the  country 
205 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

and  brought  them  away  with  her  to  her  own 
residence. 

After  spending  some  eight  months  in  Flor- 
ence, the  Blessingtons  resolved  to  leave.  Their 
departure  was  a  sad  blow  to  Landor,  who  could 
remember  no  pleasanter  time  of  his  life  in 
Italy  than  the  summer  evenings  passed  with 
them  in  the  Casa :  for,  as  he  wrote  to  his 
mother  'he  had  never  talked  with  a  woman 
more  elegant  or  better-informed,  more  generous 
or  high-minded'  than  Lady  Blessington.  So 
long  as  he  remained  in  the  city  he  never  passed 
the  house  they  had  occupied  without  feelings 
of  regret.  '  It  grieves  me '  he  writes  to  Lady 
Blessington  '  when  I  look  up  to  the  terrace ; 
yet  I  never  fail  to  look  up  at  it  when  I  am 
anywhere  in  sight,  as  if  grief  were  as  attractive 
as  pleasure.'  And  then  began  his  racy  and 
delightful  letters  to  her,  his  correspondence 
lasting  till  her  death.  Yet  as  a  correspondent 
he  seems  to  have  entertained  but  a  poor  opinion 
of  himself.  '  Now  all  your  letters  are  of  value ' 
he  says  to  her  '  and  all  mine  stupid.  I  can 

write   a  scene  in  a   tragedy  with   greater  ease 
206 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

than  a  letter.  I  never  know  what  to  write 
about.  And  what  not  to  say  is  a  thousand 
times  more  difficult  than  what  to  say.  But 
you  always  supply  me  with  materials,  and 
furnish  me  with  a  Grecian  lamp  to  hang  over 
them.' 

This  is  a  charming  compliment,  but  not  the 
most  charming  which  he  paid  her  as  a  corre- 
spondent :  for  he  tells  her  on  another  occasion 
that  he  never  entertains  so  high  an  opinion 
of  his  imagination  as  when  reading  her  letters. 
'  They  always  make  me  fancy  I  hear  and 
almost  see  you '  he  writes.  Nor  was  Landor 
the  only  man  of  genius  who  especially  valued 
this  gift  of  hers.  Years  later  Barry  Cornwall 
writing  to  her  says  '  Your  little  letters  always 
find  me  grateful  to  them.  They  (little  paper 
angels  as  they  are)  put  devils  of  all  kinds 
from  blue  down  to  black  to  speedy  flight.'  And 
again  this  poet  tells  her  '  Your  little  notes  come 
into  my  Cimmerian  cell  like  starlits  shot  from  a 
brighter  region — pretty  and  pleasant  disturbers 
of  the  darkness  aSout  me.  I  imprison  them 

(my  Arieis)  in  a  drawer,  with  conveyances  and 

207 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

wills  etc.,  and  such  sublunary  things,  which 
seem  very  proud  of  their  society.  Yet  if  your 
notes  to  me  be  skiey  visitors,  what  must  this 
my  note  be  to  you  ?  It  must  I  fear,  be  an  evil 
genius.' 

Her  personality,  atmosphere,  or  magnetism, 
that  undefined  potency  which  comes  as  a  natural 
dower,  without  which  it  is  impossible  to  impress 
with  love  or  hatred ;  that  subtle  power  which 
was  found  fascinating  in  her  intercourse,  was 
conveyed  in  her  letters,  and  communicated  its 
spell  to  their  readers. 

From  Florence  the  Blessingtons  proceeded  to 
Rome  which  they  reached  in  November  1827. 
The  palace  which  had  been  engaged  for  them 
at  a  rental  of  forty  pounds  a  month  by  no 
means  commended  itself  to  the  Countess,  and 
she  immediately  began  a  search  for  a  residence 
more  suitable  to  her  desires.  After  a  time  this 
was  found  in  the  Palazzo  Negroni  where  she 
engaged  the  two  principal  floors  at  the  rate  of  a 
hundred  guineas  a  month,  for  six  months  cer- 
tain. 

This  being  done  she  hired  furniture  at  twenty- 
208 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

pounds  a  month,  and  produced  from  her  own 
stores,  eider-down  pillows,  curtains,  and  .table 
covers  with  the  aid  of  which  she  filled  and 
brightened  the  three  great  salons  the  family 
were  to  occupy. 

Then  began  anew  that  brilliant  round  of  social 
life  such  as  they  had  known  in  Naples  and 
Florence.  Scarce  a  day  passed  that  they  were 
not  entertaining  or  being  entertained.  Such 
names  as  Count  Funchal  the  Portuguese  am- 
bassador, Hallam  the  historian,  Lord  Howick, 
the  Due  de  Laval  Montmorenci  the  French  am- 
bassador :  the  Princess  de  Montfort,  Lord  King, 
the  Marchesa  Conzani,  the  Marchesa  Camarata, 
the  Due  and  Duchesse  de  Brucciano,  flash 
through  the  pages  of  her  diary  as  amongst  those 
whom  she  received. 

One  night  when  Lady  Blessington  attended  a 
bal  masque  given  by  the  Duchesse  de  Brucciano, 
she  was  struck  by  a  figure  moving  amongst  a 
thousand  others  in  gorgeous  coloured  costumes, 
which  figure,  a  female  mask,  presently  addressed 
her,  making  witty  and  piquant  remarks,  and  then 

turning   away   was   lost   in    the   brilliant   maze 
VOL.  i.  209  o 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

around,  leaving  the  Countess  in  wonder  as  to 
whom  it  was.  But  again  the  female  mask  ap- 
peared, and  once  more  entering  into  conversa- 
tion, announced  that  she  was  Hortense  Bona- 
parte daughter  of  Josephine,  and  ex-queen  of 
Holland,  now  styled  the  Duchesse  de  St  Leu. 

Before  the  night  ended  came  another  surprise. 
A  mask  in  a  blue  domino  had  several  times 
accosted  her  and  kept  up  a  lively  conversation. 
Before  they  finally  parted  he  confessed  himself 
to  be  Jerome  Bonaparte,  brother  of  Napoleon, 
and  ex-king  of  Westphalia,  then  known  as  the 
Prince  de  Montfort. 

Lady  Blessington  willingly  availed  herself  of  an 
invitation  extended  to  her  by  the  ex-queen  of 
Holland,  who  like  everyone  else  soon  felt  the 
charm  of  her  manner,  and  becoming  friendly 
showed  her  the  household  gods  she  held  dear  ; 
amongst  them  some  fine  portraits  of  Napoleon 
and  Josephine,  her  bed  furniture  and  toilette 
service  of  gilt  plate,  and  her  jewels  including  a 
necklace  of  priceless  diamonds  presented  by  the 
city  of  Paris  to  Josephine,  and  others  given  to 
herself  by  the  state  of  Holland.  Nay,  so  pleased 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

was  the  ex-queen  with  her  visitor,  that  she  gave 
her  a  turquoise  and  diamond  ring  which  Jose- 
phine had  worn  for  many  years,  and  that  her 
daughter  highly  valued. 

Then  one  day  as  Lady  Blessington  and  her 
party  were  walking  in  the  gardens  of  the 
Vigna  Palatina,  they  were  surprised  by  the 
arrival  of  the  Prince  and  Princess  de  Mont- 
fort  with  Madame  Letitia  Bonaparte,  mother 
of  the  great  Napoleon,  who  was  attended  by 
her  chaplain,  her  dame  de  compagnie,  and  other 
members  of  her  suite.  Having  heard  that 
Madame  Mere,  as  this  mother  of  kings  was 
generally  called,  disliked  meeting  strangers, 
the  Blessington  party  retired  to  a  distant 
part  of  the  garden ;  but  the  Prince  having 
recognised  their  carriage  in  the  courtyard,  sent 
a  message  requesting  that  they  would  join  him. 
On  obeying  they  were  presented  to  his 
mother  and  his  wife.  Madame  Mere's  tall 
slight  figure  though  bowed  by  age,  preserved 
its  natural  dignity  and  grace ;  her  face,  pale 
and  pensive  was  lighted  by  dark  penetrat- 
ing eyes ;  her  snowy  hair  was  parted  above 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

a  high  forehead  furrowed  by  care.  Dressed 
in  a  robe  of  dark  grey  silk,  'a  superb  Cash- 
mere shawl  that  looked  like  a  tribute  from 
some  barbaric  sovereign,  fell  gracefully  over 
her  shoulders,'  her  bonnet  was  worn  over  a 
lace  cap. 

In  a  low  and  tremulous  voice  she  greeted 
those  presented  to  her,  and  her  eyes  grew 
dim  when  she  spoke  of  her  great  son  whom 
she  hoped  '  soon  to  join  in  that  better  world 
where  no  tears  where  shed.'  She  added  '  I 
thought  I  should  have  done  so  long  ago,  but 
God  sees  what  is  best  for  us.' 

A  faded  figure,  remarkable  as  the  mother 
of  the  greatest  man  the  modern  world  had 
produced,  and  pitiable  as  the  survivor  of  his 
colossal  wreckage,  she  walked  in  the  noon- 
tide sun  around  the  garden  which  Roman 
emperors  had  trod,  weary  of  a  life  which  had 
known  such  startling  vicissitudes.  Before  driv- 
ing away  she  said  '  kind  and  flattering  things ' 
to  Lady  Blessington  whom  she  invited  to 
visit  her,  and  then  kissed  her  forehead  in  fare- 
well. 

212 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

A  scarcely  less  interesting  personage  whom 
Lady  Blessington  met  at  this  time  was  the 
Countess  Guiccioli,  now  a  prominent  person- 
age in  Roman  society.  It  has  already  been 
stated  that  whilst  staying  at  Genoa,  Lady 
Blessington  had  never  seen  Madame  Guiccioli, 
though  Byron  had  frequently  mentioned  her, 
and  though  her  brother  Count  Gamba  had  been 
frequently  entertained  by  the  Blessingtons. 

It  was  however  at  a  fete  given  by  the  Due 
de  Laval  Montmorenci  that  Lady  Blessington 
first  met  the  Contessa  in  whom  she  was  much 
interested.  With  regular  features,  a  delicately 
fair  complexion,  white  teeth,  beautiful  red  gold 
hair,  a  finely-moulded  bust  and  well-shaped 
arms,  she  had  every  claim  to  be  considered  hand- 
some ;  but  there  was  an  absence  of  any  strik- 
ing characteristic,  of  any  exalted  beauty  which 
might  naturally  have  been  expected  in  one  who 
had  won  the  ardent  love  of  a  man  like  Byron, 
and  stranger  still  who  had  kept  it  till  his  death. 

At  this  time  her  husband  was  still  amongst 
the  living  and  she  was  depending  upon  the 
income  he  was  compelled  to  allow  her :  for 
213 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

contrary  to  all  expection  save  perhaps  her  own, 
her  name  was  not  mentioned  in  Byron's  will. 
That  he  had  at  one  time  intended  to  leave  her 
a  considerable  sum,  there  could  be  no  doubt. 

One  day  when  he  called  on  Lady  Blessington 
he  stated  that  he  had  been  occupied  all  the 
morning  in  making  his  will,  and  that  he  had  left 
the  Countess  Guiccioli  ten  thousand  pounds, 
and  would  have  made  it  twenty-five  thousand 
but  that  she  suspecting  his  intentions  had  urged 
him  not  to  leave  her  any  legacy.  So  fearful 
was  she,  he  said,  of  the  possibility  of  having 
interested  motives  attributed  to  her,  that  he  was 
certain  she  would  prefer  to  suffer  poverty  rather 
than  to  incur  such  suspicions;  this  being  only  one 
of  the  innumerable  instances  of  her  delicacy  and 
disinterestedness,  of  which  he  had  repeated  proofs. 

Lady  Blessington  suggested  that  if  he  left 
the  Countess  the  sum  he  had  originally  intended, 
it  would  be  a  flattering  proof  of  his  affection  for 
her;  and  that  she  would  always  have  the  power 
of  refusing  a  part  or  the  whole  of  the  legacy 
if  she  wished  ;  to  which  he  seemed  to  agree. 

He  also  told  his  banker  Mr  Barry  that   he 
214 


LADY  BLESS1NGTON 

intended  to  leave  in  his  hands  a  will  in  which 
was  a  bequest  of  ten  thousand  pounds  to 
Madame  Guiccioli :  and  when  leaving  Greece 
the.  poet  instructed  the  banker  to  advance  her 
money.  This  she  would  never  consent  to 
receive.  When  news  came  of  Byron's  death, 
Barry  took  it  for  granted  that  the  will  would  be 
found  amongst  the  sealed  papers  left  with  him 
by  the  poet,  but  no  such  document  was  dis- 
covered ;  on  which  he  immediately  wrote  to 
the  Countess  asking  if  she  knew  anything  con- 
cerning it,  mentioning  at  the  same  time  what 
Byron  had  said  regarding  the  legacy. 

To  this  she  replied  that  he  had  frequently 
spoken  of  the  subject,  but  as  it  was  painful 
to  her  she  had  always  turned  the. conversation 
and  expressed  a  wish  that  no  mention  of  her 
name  would  be  found ;  for  her  income  was 
already  sufficient  for  her  wants  '  and  the  world 
might  put  a  wrong  construction  on  her  attach- 
ment, should  it  appear  that  her  fortunes  were 
in  any  degree  bettered  by  it.'  The  Countess 
therefore,  from  a  pecuniary  point,  in  no  ways 
benefited  by  Byron's  attachment. 
215 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

And  now  came  an  incident  in  the  domestic 
life  of  the  Blessingtons  which  was  destined 
to  have  unhappy  results  for  those  it  most  con- 
cerned. It  will  be  remembered  that  in  April 
1823  whilst  they  were  at  Genoa,  news  was 
brought  to  the  Earl  that  his  only  legitimate 
son  had  died  on  the  26th  of  the  previous  month. 
The  loss  of  his  heir  was  a  serious  grief  to  Lord 
Blessington,  especially  as  there  seemed  no  pro- 
bability of  his  being  replaced,  and  the  idea 
therefore  occurred  to  the  peer  to  make  one  of 
his  daughters  his  heiress  and  marry  her  to  his 
friend  Alfred  D'Orsay. 

Which  of  the  girls  was  destined  to  become  the 
Countess  D'Orsay  he  did  not  at  first  decide  :  both 
were  at  this  time  mere  children  ;  the  one,  Emily 
Rosalie  Hamilton  born  before  her  mother's  mar- 
riage with  Lord  Blessington,  but  known  as  Lady 
Mary  Gardiner  being  then  in  her  twelfth  year  ; 
whilst  the  other  his  legitimate  daughter  Lady 
Harriet  Anne  Jane  Frances  Gardiner  was  twelve 
months  younger.  It  was  not  of  course  intended 
that  the  marriage  should  take  place  for  some  time  : 

both  girls  were  then  living  in  Dublin  under  the 
216 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

care  of  their  paternal  aunt  Lady  Harriet 
Gardiner,  who  resided  with  her  brother-in-law 
the  Bishop  of  Ossory. 

Accordingly  on  the  2d  of  June  1823  Lord 
Blessington  whilst  at  Genoa  made  a  codicil  to 
his  will  in  which  he  stated  that  having  had 
the  misfortune  to  lose  his  beloved  son  '  and 
having  entered  into  engagements  with  Alfred 
Comte  D'Orsay,  that  an  alliance  should  take 
place  between  him  and  my  daughter,  which 
engagement  has  been  sanctioned  by  Albert 
Comte  D'Orsay,  General  etc.  in  the  service 
of  France,  this  is  to  declare  and  publish  my 
desire  to  leave  to  the  said  Alfred  D'Orsay 
my  estates  in  the  city  and  county  of  Dublin 
...  for  his  and  her  use,  whether  it  be 
Mary  (baptised  Emily)  Rosalie  Hamilton,  or 
Harriet  Anne  Jane  Frances,  and  to  their  heirs- 
male,  the  said  Alfred  and  said  Mary  or  Harriet, 
for  ever  in  default  of  issue  male,  to  follow  the 
provisions  of  the  will  and  testament.' 

Some  two  months  later,  on  the  3ist  of  August, 
Lord  Blessington  made  a  last  will  and  testament 

to  the  same  effect,  the  choice  of  his  daughters 
217 


being  still  left  open  to  the  selection  of  the  bride- 
groom, who  had  never  seen  either,  and  could 
not  but  be  indifferent  to  both. 

To  one  of  Count  D'Orsay's  nationality  there 
was  nothing  contrary  to  custom  in  the  fact  of 
a  girl  he  had  never  seen,  being  selected  for  and 
accepted  by  him  as  his  wife.  As  was  usual  in 


between  the  fathers  of  the  prospective  bride 
and  bridegroom,  and  it  merely  remained  for  him 
to  agree  to  their  wishes :  an  agreement  which 
was  doubtless  the  more  readily  given  in  view 
of  the  immense  fortune  which  was  to  fall  to  him. 
That  Lord  Blessington  had  selected  D'Orsay 
to  become  his  son-in-law,  can  be  explained  only 
on  the  ground  of  the  high  estimate  in  which  he 
held  the  Count's  character  and  abilities  and  the 
affection  which  the  Earl  entertained  for  him. 
It  was  true  that  when  the  codicil  containing 
such  a  proposal  was  drawn  up,  D'Orsay  had 
been  a  member  of  their  party  merely  for  a  few 
months  ;  but  the  four  years  which  had  elapsed 
between  this  suggestion  and  the  solemnisation 

of  the  marriage,  whilst  giving    Lord   Blessing- 
218 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

ton  ample  opportunity  to  see  more  of  the  Count, 
had  not  caused  him  to  alter  his  mind  mean- 
while. 

Had  Lady  Blessington  from  any  motive, 
desired  to  prevent  this  marriage,  there  can  be 
little  doubt  that  her  influence,  which  was 
supreme  with  her  husband,  could  have  effected 
her  wishes :  but  the  probability  was  that  like 
the  Earl,  she  considered  that  D'Orsay — a  man  of 
ancient  lineage,  possessing  varied  and  brilliant 
talents  and  remarkable  for  his  personal  gifts 
— would  in  all  ways  prove  a  desirable  member 
of  their  family. 

It  was  eventually  decided  that  the  Earl's 
legitimate  daughter,  the  Lady  Harriet,  was  to 
become  Count  D'Orsay's  wife,  and  she  was 
therefore  sent  for,  and  arrived  at  Florence 
whilst  the  family  were  residing  there. 

Lady  Harriet  was  at  this  time  under  seven- 
teen. Slight  and  pale,  silent  and  reserved,  she 
seemed  even  younger  than  her  age.  She  had 
never  known  her  mother,  had  seen  but  little  of 
her  father,  had  no  acquaintance  with  the  world, 

was  unused  to  strangers,  and  gave  no  indication 
219 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

of  the  self-reliance  and  determination  she  after- 
wards showed.  With  searching,  timid  eyes  she 
looked  at  the  polite  foreigner  to  whom  in  future 
she  was  to  belong ;  she,  having  no  will  to 
sanction  or  to  refuse  the  arrangement  made  for 
her ;  no  thought  but  to  obey.  On  his  part 
Count  D'Orsay  was  not  inspired  with  love  by 
this  school-girl  who  seemed  incapable  of  appre- 
ciating his  best-turned  compliments,  and  indif- 
ferent to  the  graces  which  had  won  him  high 
reputation  in  a  hundred  drawing-rooms. 

It  was  originally  the  intention  of  Lord 
Blessington  that  the  marriage  should  take  place 
in  Florence,  but  hindrance  to  this  arrange- 
ment was  given  by  the  English  Ambassador 
in  that  city,  John  Lord  Burghersh,  afterwards 
eleventh  Earl  of  Westmoreland,  who  intimated 
to  the  French  Ambassador  the  Duke  de  Laval 
Montmorenci  that  the  ceremony  according  to 
the  rights  of  the  English  Church  must  precede 
that  of  the  Catholic  Church.  Moreover  on  some 
personal  remonstrance  being  made  by  Lady 
Blessington  he  behaved  with  rudeness  to  her 
and  to  her  step-daughter ;  an  act  which  drew 


from     Walter    Savage    Landor    the    following 
wrathful  letter : — 

'  DEAR  LADY  BLESSINGTON, — If  I  could  hear 
of  any  wrong  or  any  rudeness  offered  to  you 
without  at  least  as  much  resentment  as  you 
yourself  would  feel  upon  it,  I  should  be  un- 
worthy not  only  of  the  friendship  with  which 
you  honour  me,  but  of  one  moment's  thought 
or  notice.  Lord  B.  told  me  what  had  occurred 
yesterday.  I  believe  I  may  have  said  on  other 
occasions  that  nothing  could  surprise  me,  of 
folly  or  indecorum  in  Lord  Burghersh.  I  must 
retract  my  words  :  the  only  ones  he  will  ever 
make  me  retract.  That  a  man  educated  among 
the  sons  of  gentlemen  could  be  guilty  of  such 
incivility  to  two  ladies,  to  say  nothing  of  condi- 
tion, nothing  of  person,  nothing  of  acquaintance 
and  past  courtesies,  is  inconceivable,  even  to  the 
most  observant  of  his  behaviour  throughout  the 
whole  period  of  his  public  life.  From  what  I 
have  heard  and  known  during  a  residence  of  six 
years  at  Florence,  I  am  convinced  that  all  the 
ministers  of  all  the  other  Courts  in  Europe  (I 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

may  throw  in  those  of  Asia  and  Africa)  have 
never  been  guilty  of  so  many  unbecoming  and 
disgraceful  actions  as  this  man.  The  only  per- 
son for  whom  he  ever  interested  himself  was  a 
Count  Aceto,  the  most  notorious  gambler  and 
profligate,  who  had  been  expelled  from  the 
Tuscan  and  the  Lucca  States.  And  now  his 
conscience  will  not  permit  him  to  sanction  a 
father's  disposal  of  his  daughter  in  marriage 
with  almost  the  only  man  who  deserves  her,  and 
certainly  the  very  man  who  deserves  her  most. 

'  I  said  little  in  reply  to  Lord  B.,  only  to  praise 
his  coolness  and  forbearance.  Nothing  can  be 
wiser  than  the  resolution,  to  consider  in  the  light 
of  diplomacy  what  has  happened,  or  more 
necessary  than  to  represent  it,  in  all  its  cir- 
cumstances to  the  Administration  at  home ; 
without  which  it  cannot  fail  to  be  misinter- 
preted here,  whatever  care  and  anxiety  the 
friends  of  your  family  may  display,  in  setting 
right  the  erroneous  and  malicious.  I  hope  Count 
D'Orsay  sees  the  affair  in  the  same  point  of 
view  as  I  do,  and  will  allow  his  resentment  to 
lose  itself  among  feelings  more  congenial  to 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

him.  Lord  B.,  I  do  assure  your  ladyship,  has 
quite  recovered  his  composure :  I  hope  that 
you  have  too — otherwise  the  first  smile  on  see- 
ing him  at  Rome  will  not  sufficiently  reward 
him  for  his  firmness  and  his  judgment 

'  With  every  good  wish  in  all  its  intensity  to 
the  happy  couple,  and  with  one  good  wish  of 
much  the  same  nature  to  Miss  Power, — I  remain 
your  ladyship's  very  devoted  servant.' 

The  Blessingtons  therefore  left  Florence,  as  al- 
ready stated,  and  arrived  in  Rome  in  November 
1827,  en  route  for  Naples,  where,  according  to 
the  Annual  Register,  the  marriage  of  Lady 
Harriet  Gardiner  and  Count  Alfred  D'Orsay 
was  celebrated  by  the  chaplain  to  the  British 
Embassy.  The  family  then  returned  to  Rome, 
from  where  four  days  later  the  bridegroom 
addressed  the  following  letter  concerning  the 
arrangements,  to  Landor  : — 

'  ROME,  Decembre  8,  1827. 

'  MON  CHER  MR  LANDOR, — Nous  avons  tous 
etc  oblige  d'aller  a  Naples  pour  faire  le  mariage 

Protestant,  car  la  premiere  insinuation  qu'a  Ton 
223 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

donna  au  Due  de  Laval,  fut  qu'il  etoit  preferable 
que  cela  cut  lieu  avant  la  ceremonie  Catholique, 
ainsi  voila  ce  grand  imbecille  d'un  ministre  con- 
fondu.  Son  ignorant  entetement  est  prouve.  Je 
viens  de  lui  ecrire,  pour  lui  dire  que  lors  qu'on 
est  completement  ignorant  des  devoirs  de  son 
ministere  on  doit  alors  en  place  d'entetement  s'en 
rapporter  a  1'opinion  des  autres,  et  que  malgre 
tout  1'embarras  que  nous  avions  eu  a  cause  de 
lui,  d'entreprendre  ce  voyage,  nous  avions  ete  a 

meme  de  juger  de  F ,  qui   comprend   tout 

aussi,  bien  les  devoirs  de  son  ministere  que  la 
maniere  de  recevoir  les  personnes  de  distinction. 
'J'espere  qu'il  prendra  mal  ma  lettre,  car 
j'aurais  grand  plaisir  de  lui  couper  le  bout  de 
son  bee.  Je  vous  ecris  ces  details  car  je  sais 
meme  par  Hare,  qu'en  veritable  ami  vous  avez 
pris  chaudement  notre  parti ;  je  ne  m'en  etonne 
pas,  car  il  suffit  de  vous  connaitre,  et  de  pouvoir 
vous  apprecier,  pour  etre  convaincu  que  tout  ce 
qui  n'est  pas  sincere  n'a  rien  de  commun  avec 
vous.  Toute  la  famille  vous  envoye  mille 
amities,  nous  parlons  et  pensons  souvent  de 
vous. — Votre  tres  affectionne,  D'ORSAV.' 

224 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

Whatever  the  intentions  of  the  newly- 
married  pair  regarding  their  future  home  may 
have  been,  for  the  present  they  lived  in  the 
Palazzo  Negroni,  and  from  there  travelled  with 
Lord  and  Lady  Blessington  and  Miss  Power 
through  Italy  into  France  on  their  way  to 
England. 

Passing  through  various  towns  they  came  at 
last  to  Genoa,  and  here  it  was  that  a  little  in- 
cident occurred  which  shows  the  thought  and 
kindness  of  Lady  Blessington's  disposition  ;  they 
being  the  secret  by  which  she  won  and  held 
the  admiration  and  affection  of  all  who  knew 
her. 

During  their  first  stay  in  the  city  she  had 
been  attracted  by  a  pretty  child  whose  brown- 
faced  father  mended  shoes  outside  his  door  in 
a  narrow  high-housed  passage  not  far  from 
their  hotel.  This  child,  the  little  Teresina,  who 
was  but  two  years  old,  was  the  light  of  her 
parents'  eyes ;  and  was  dearer  to  them  from 
the  fact  that  already  they  had  lost  two  children 
before  they  had  reached  her  age. 

Bright   and    merry   she   would   dance   round 
VOL.  i.  225  p 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

her  father,  put  a  flower  to  his  nose,  crow  with 
delight  and  hide  behind  the  apron  of  her 
mother,  who  knitting  as  she  leaned  against 
the  door-post,  watched  the  sprite's  movements, 
greedy  of  happiness.  One  day  Lady  Bless- 
ington  stayed  to  kiss  the  child,  by  which 
she  won  its  parents'  hearts  for  ever ;  and  after 
this,  whenever  she  would  pass,  Teresina  would 
clap  her  hands  for  joy,  hold  out  a  flower  for 
her  to  smell,  or  offer  her  lips  to  be  kissed  : 
when  the  father  and  mother  radiant  with 
pride  and  joy  would  tell  in  high-pitched  tones 
of  their  darling's  wonderful  intelligence. 

Before  leaving,  the  Countess  bought  some 
presents,  amongst  them  a  silver  medal  of  St 
Teresa,  for  the  child  to  whom  she  bade  good-bye : 
but  next  morning  the  father  and  mother  with 
their  little  one  were  waiting  outside  the  hotel  to 
see  them  off,  carrying  two  bouquets  which  they 
presented,  their  prayers  for  the  foreigners  being 
interrupted  by  tears. 

On  returning  to  Genoa  the  cobbler  and  his 
wife  were  not  in  their  accustomed  place,  and 

nothing    was   known    of    them    by   those    now 
226 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

occupying  their  house.  Anxious  to  see  them, 
Lady  Blessington  offered  a  reward  to  the 
laquais-de-place  if  he  could  find  them,  and 
eventually  they  were  discovered  in  a  poor 
quarter  of  the  town  where  she  went  to  see 
them.  Nothing  could  equal  their  gratitude 
and  joy  which  soon  however  was  turned  in- 
to tears.  The  light  of  their  life  had  gone 
out,  and  they  could  not  remain  in  the  old 
darkened  house.  And  for  long  they  spoke 
of  the  sorrow,  the  mother  taking  from  her 
neck  the  medal  of  which  the  child  had  been  so 
proud.  Lady  Blessington  forced  some  presents 
upon  them  and  left  them  with  their  prayers 
ringing  in  her  ears. 

A  more  cheerful  episode  marked  the  close 
of  this  second  visit  to  Genoa.  They  had 
bidden  farewell  to  all  the  well-remembered 
spots  including  Byron's  palace,  and  on  the 
morning  of  their  departure,  imperials  and  chaise 
seats  were  packed,  bills  paid,  '  canvas  sacks  of 
silver  given  to  the  courier,'  and  letters  of  credit 
made  out,  when  Lady  Blessington  was  taken 

to  see  a  charming  carriage  which  had  arrived 
227 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

from  England,  and  was  similar  to  one  she 
had  admired  when  in  Florence,  belonging  to 
the  English  minister's  wife.  She  praised  this 
highly  and  was  then  told  it  was  hers,  having 
been  specially  ordered  and  sent  from  London 
for  her  journey. 

'  Lord  Blessington '  she  says  '  has  a  princely 
way  of  bestowing  gifts.' 


228 


CHAPTER    VIII 

Hotel  Marechal  Ney— The  Most  Gallant  of  all 
Gallant  Husbands — A  Round  of  Gaiety — Mrs 
Purves  marries — Letters  from  Tom  Moore — 
Lord  Rosslyn's  Request — Death  of  Lord  Bless- 
ington — Letters  from  Landor — Lady  Blessing- 
ton's  Grief— First  Breath  of  Scandal — The  Age 
and  its  Infamous  Editor — Instructions  to  prose- 
cute— Letters  to  Sympathisers. 

TRAVELLING  slowly  as  was  their  wont,  the 
Blessingtons,  with  the  Count  and  Countess 
D'Orsay  and  Miss  Power,  reached  Paris  on  a 
hot  day  in  June  1828  and  took  up  their  resi- 
dence in  the  Hotel  de  Terrasse,  Rue  de  Rivoli. 
Their  stay  here  was  but  temporary,  one  of 
the  first  things  which  occupied  them  being  the 
search  for  a  suitable  residence.  This  after  some 
time  was  found  in  a  magnificent  house  which 
had  once  belonged  to  Marechal  Ney. 

This  mansion  which  had  been  to  let  but  three 

days,  was  taken  at  an  enormous  rental  by  the 
229 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Blessingtons,  who  outbid  all  competitors.  It 
was  situated  in  the  Rue  de  Bourbon  and  looked 
out  upon  the  gardens  of  the  Tuileries  and  the 
Seine.  Approached  by  an  avenue  of  trees  that 
ended  in  a  court,  it  was  enclosed  from  the  Rue 
de  Bourbon  by  high  walls,  and  separated  from 
the  Ouai  d'Orsay  by  a  terrace  planted  with 
flowers.  From  a  lofty  vestibule  opened  suites 
of  finely-proportioned  rooms  with  fluted  pil- 
asters and  chimney-pieces  of  Parian  marble, 
their  walls  and  ceilings  still  fresh  with  decora- 
tions that  had  cost  a  million  francs. 

Furniture  suitable  to  this  palatial  residence 
was  now  hired  for  a  year,  on  condition  that 
should  its  purchase  be  desirable  after  that  period, 
allowance  would  be  made  for  the  hire  money. 
Whilst  the  house  was  being  prepared  Lady 
Blessington  amused  herself  by  visiting  it,  but 
was  not  allowed  to  see  her  bed,  dressing,  or  bath- 
rooms until  they  were  finished ;  this  suite  being 
specially  decorated  and  furnished  from  designs 
by  her  husband,  who  when  they  were  completed 
took  her  to  see  them. 

Nothing   could    exceed   the  luxury  of  these 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

apartments.  A  silvered  bed  rested  on  the  back 
of  silver  swans  '  so  exquisitely  sculptured  that 
every  feather  is  in  alto  relievo  and  looks  nearly 
as  fleecy  as  those  of  the  living  bird.'  Curtains 
of  pale  blue  silk,  carpets  of  uncut  pile,  silver 
lamps,  luxurious  couches,  immense  mirrors,  and 
'  a  rich  coffer  for  jewels,'  completed  the  arrange- 
ments. The  bathroom  was  more  beautiful 
still,  with  its  white  marble  and  its  frescoed 
ceiling  representing  Flora  scattering  flowers 
with  one  hand,  whilst  from  the  other  was 
suspended  an  alabaster  lamp  in  the  shape  of 
a  lotus. 

'  The  whole  fitting  up  is  in  exquisite  taste ' 
she  writes  '  and  as  usual,  when  my  most  gallant 
of  all  gallant  husbands  that  it  ever  fell  to  the 
happy  lot  of  woman  to  possess,  interferes,  no 
expense  has  been  spared.  A  queen  could  desire 
nothing  better  for  her  own  private  apartments. 
Few  queens,  most  probably,  ever  had  such  taste- 
ful ones.' 

On  the  day  before  they  moved  into  their  new 
residence,  June  I4th,  Lord  Blessington  wrote  to 
Landor  telling  him  of  their  intended  change, 
231 


and  stating  that  Lady  Blessington  wished  that 
some  whim,  caprice,  or  other  impelling  power 
might  transport  him  across  the  Alps,  and  give 
them  the  pleasure  of  again  seeing  him. 

'  Here  we  have  been  nearly  five  weeks '  he 
tells  his  correspondent  'and  unlike  to  Italy  and 
its  suns,  we  have  no  remembrance  of  the  former, 
but  in  the  rolling  of  the  thunder  ;  and  when  we 
see  the  latter,  we  espy  at  the  same  time  the 
threatening  clouds  on  the  horizon.  To  balance 
or  assist  such  pleasure  we  have  an  apartment 
bien  decore  with  Jardin  de  Tuileries  en  face,  and 
our  apartment  being  at  the  corner,  we  have  the 
double  advantage  of  all  the  row  from  morning 
till  night.  Diligences  and  fiacres — coachmen 
cracking  their  whips,  stallions  neighing,  carts 
with  empty  wine  barrels — all  sorts  of  discordant 
music,  and  all  kinds  of  cries,  songs,  and  the 
jingling  of  bells.  But  we  hope  this  is  our  last 
day  of  purgatory :  for  though  the  skies  are 
loaded  with  more  water  than  one  could  expect 
— after  so  much  pouring,  yet  midst  thunder, 
lightning,  and  rain,  we  are  to  strike  our  tents 

and  march.' 

232 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

A  staff  of  domestics  including  a  groom  of  the 
chambers,  a  maitre  d "hotel,  and  a  cook  who  was 
-'an  inimitable  artist'  was  added  to  the  servants 
who  had  travelled  with  the  family.  Once  settled 
in  their  new  home  the  Blessingtons  began  to 
entertain  with  their  usual  sumptuous  hospitality. 
A  vast  number  of  guests,  foreign  princes  and 
princesses,  dukes  and  duchesses,  counts  and 
countesses,  English  ambassadors  and  men  of 
title,  were  bidden  to  dinners,  breakfasts,  and 
suppers  ;  the  host  and  hostess  being  en- 
tertained in  return.  A  glittering  gaiety 
seemed  the  order  of  the  day.  Now  they  are 
in  their  box  at  the  opera  witnessing  the  debut 
of  Taglioni  who  has  introduced  a  new  style  of 
dancing,  'graceful  beyond  all  comparison,  won- 
derful lightness,  an  absence  of  all  violent  effort, 
and  a  modesty  as  new  as  it  is  delightful  to 
witness  in  her  art.'  Again  they  attend  a 
grand  review  in  the  Champ  de  Mars  at  which 
Charles  X.,  the  dauphin,  dauphine,  and  the 
Duchesse  de  Berri  were  present ;  Lady 
Blessington  chaperoned  by  the  Duchesse 
de  Guiche,  sitting  beside  the  Marchioness  de 
233 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Louie  sister  to  the  King  of  Portugal,  in  the 
front  row  of  the  grand  pavilion. 

All  things  seemed  to  prosper  with  Lady 
Blessington  ;  and  amongst  other  pleasant  events 
came  the  marriage  of  her  sister  Ellen,  Mrs 
Purves,  to  the  Right  Honourable  John  Manners 
Sutton,  afterwards  Viscount  Canterbury,  which 
was  celebrated  on  the  6th  of  December  1828. 
Mr  Manners  Sutton  had  been  a  widower  since 
1815,  whilst  Mrs  Purves  had  been  a  widow 
since  the  2/th  of  September  1827,  her  husband 
having  died  on  that  date  at  Pensacola  where  he 
had  for  four  years  held  the  post  of  British 
Consul.  Amongst  the  letters  of  congratulation 
which  Lady  Blessington  received  on  this  mar- 
riage was  the  following  from  her  friend 
Landor  : — 

'  Fortune  is  not  often  too  kind  to  me — indeed 
why  should  she  be,  but  when  she  is,  it  is  reason- 
able enough  I  should  be  grateful.  We  have 
come  at  last  to  this  agreement,  that  whenever 
she  does  anything  pleasant  to  you,  I  may  take 
my  part  in  the  pleasure,  nem.  con.,  and  as  large 
a  part  as  anyone  except  yourself  and  Lord  B. 
234 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

She  then  put  something  into  the  opposite  scale, 
and  said  it  was  but  just.  I  laughed  to  hear  her 
talk  of  justice,  but  owned  it.  Now  I  will  lay  a 
wager  that,  of  the  hundreds  of  letters  you  and 
my  lord  have  received  to  congratulate  you  on  the 
marriage  of  Mrs  Purves,  not  one  has  been  so 
long  in  coming  to  the  point.  .  .  . 

'  I  am  waiting  very  anxiously  to  offer  Miss 
Power  better  compliments  than  these  of  the 
season.  Why  is  she  contented  with  holly, 
when  she  may  have  myrtle  ?  I  must  not  begin 
to  ponder  and  meditate,  for  whatever  effect  these 
ponderings  and  meditations  may  have  upon  the 
ponderer  and  meditator,  the  effect  is  likely  to  be 
very  different  on  those  whom  they  befall.  And 
I  do  not  think  your  post  comes  in  at  bedtime. 
I  have  not  yet  transgressed  so  far,  that  I  may 
not  request  to  be  presented  to  all  your  house, 
and  to  wish  you  many  many  years  of  health  and 
happiness.' 

A  month  before  this  event  took  place  Lady 

Blessington    received    a    letter    from    her    old 

friend   Tom  Moore  who  was  then   engaged    in 

writing   his  life   of  Byron.     Moore   had  heard 

235 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

from  Lord  John  Russell  that  she  had  seen  a 
good  deal  of  Byron  during  his  last  days  in 
Italy,  that  she  could  narrate  many  anecdotes  of 
him,  and  that  she  possessed  some  verses  ad- 
dressed to  herself  by  the  poet.  '  Now  my  dear 
Lady  Blessington '  wrote  Moore  insinuatingly, 
'  if  you  have  anything  like  the  same  cordial 
remembrances  of  old  times  that  I  have — if  ever 
the  poet  (or  the  piper)  found  favour  in  your 
ears,  sit  down  instantly  and  record  for  me  as 
only  a  woman  can  record,  every  particular  of 
your  acquaintance  with  Byron  from  first  to  last. 
Above  all  do  not  forget  the  verses,  which  will 
be  doubly  precious  as  written  by  hint  on  yon? 

Lady  Blessington  ever  anxious  to  help  or  to 
please  her  friends,  readily  complied  with  his 
request,  and  to  her  is  due  the  interesting  par- 
ticulars the  biographer  gives  of  Byron's  last 
days  in  Genoa.  When  the  book  was  published 
however  she  was  not  forwarded  a  presentation 
copy,  '  all  owing  to  a  mistake,  or  rather  a  diffi- 
culty in  the  way  of  business '  as  Moore  wrote  to 
explain  when  reminded  of  his  want  of  courtesy. 

'  It  is  too  long  a  story  for  a  man  in  a  hurry  to 
236 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

relate,  but  you  will  understand  enough,  when  I 
tell  you  that  the  dispensation  of  the  presentation 
copies  was  a  joint  concern  between  Murray 
and  me,  and  that  having  by  mistake  exceeded 
my  number,  I  was  unwilling  to  embarrass  my 
account  by  going  further. 

'  But  mind  whatever  copy  you  may  have  read 
me  in,  the  one  you  must  go  to  sleep  upon  (when 
inclined  for  a  doze)  must  be  a  portable  octavo 
presented  by  myself.  You  deserve  ten  times 
more  than  this,  not  only  for  your  old  friendship, 
but  for  the  use  you  have  been  to  the  said  volumes 
by  the  very  interesting  and  (in  the  present  state 
of  the  patrimonial  question)  apropos  contribu- 
tions you  have  furnished.' 

The  year  1829  did  not  begin  propitiously  for 
Lady  Blessington  ;  her  health  became  uncertain, 
she  was  subject  to  depression.  Writing  to 
Landor  in  February  she  begs  that  he  will  not 
think  her  ungrateful  for  not  answering  his  last 
letter  '  but  when  I  tell  you  '  she  says  '  that  for  the 
last  two  months  I  have  only  twice  attempted  to 
use  my  pen,  and  both  times  was  compelled  to 
abandon  it,  you  will  acquit  me  of  neglect  or 
237 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

negligence,  neither  of  which,  towards  those  whom 
I  esteem  and  value  as  highly  as  I  do  you,  are 
among  the  catalogue  of  my  faults.  The  change 
of  climate,  operating  on  a  constitution  none  of 
the  strongest,  and  an  unusually  severe  winter,  to 
me,  who  for  years  have  only  seen  Italian  ones, 
has  brought  on  a  severe  attack  of  rheumatism 
in  the  head,  that  has  not  only  precluded  the 
possibility  of  writing,  but  nearly  of  reading 
also.' 

It  was  a  couple  of  months  later,  during  which 
she  felt  little  better,  that  her  husband  received 
from  Lord  Rosslyn  who  acted  as  whip  for 
his  party,  the  following  letter  relative  to  the 
Catholic  Emancipation  Bill,  which  was  then 
agitating  the  United  Kingdom  : — 

'  Knowing  the  deep  interest  you  have  always 
taken  in  the  peace  and  prosperity  of  Ireland, 
and  the  anxious  zeal  with  which  you  have  upon 
every  occasion  exerted  yourself  in  favour  of  the 
repeal  of  the  civil  disabilities  upon  the  Catholics, 
I  take  the  earliest  opportunity  of  apprising  you 
of  the  present  situation  of  that  question. 

'  It  has  become  of  the  utmost  consequence  to 
238 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

obtain  the  best  attendance  of  the  friends  of  civil 
and  religious  liberty,  in  order  to  give  all  possible 
support  to  the  measure  proposed  by  the  Duke  of 
Wellington. 

'  I  am  persuaded  that  you  will  feel  with  me  that 
the  present  is  a  crisis  that  calls  for  every  possible 
exertion  and  sacrifice  from  those  who  have  as 
strong  feelings  and  as  deep  a  stake  in  the  peace 
and  prosperity  of  Ireland  as  you  have  ;  and  you 
cannot  fail  to  be  aware  that  the  object  of  the 
Orange  and  Brunswick  Clubs  in  both  countries 
is  to  defeat  the  salutary  measures  proposed  by 
the  Duke  of  Wellington,  and  consequently  to 
endanger  the  security  of  all  property  in  Ireland 
and  the  peace  of  the  Empire. 

'  If  you  see  this  subject  in  the  same  light  that  I 
do,  you  will  not  hesitate  to  come  over  to  take 
your  seat ;  and  I  should  venture  to  suggest  to 
your  lordship,  if  that  should  be  your  determina- 
tion, that  you  should  come  before  the  second 
reading  of  the  Bill,  and  remain  till  after  the 
Committee ;  and  if  you  will  do  me  the  honour 
to  signify  your  commands  to  me,  I  will  take 
care  to  give  you  timely  notice  of  the  day  on 
239 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

which  it  may  be  necessary  for  you  to  be  in  the 
House  of  Lords  for  the  purpose  of  taking  the 
oaths,  and  will  take  charge  of  seeing  that 
your  writ  is  ready.' 

Though  Lord  Blessington  was  not  quite  well 
at  this  time,  and  though  the  journey  from  the 
French  to  the  English  capital  was  tedious  and 
uncomfortable,  he  resolved  to  cross  the  Channel 
and  be  in  his  place  in  the  House  of  Peers  when 
the  bill  came  up  for  discussion  ;  for  my  Lord  was 
a  liberal  man  in  his  ideas,  and  had  ever  been  a 
lover  of  his  country.  Lady  Blessington  writes 
that  he  never  considered  himself,  when  a  duty 
was  to  be  performed.  She  adds,  '  I  wish 
the  question  was  carried  and  he  safely  back 
again.  What  would  our  political  friends 
say  if  they  knew  how  strongly  I  urged 
him  not  to  go,  but  to  send  his  proxy  to 
Lord  Rosslyn  ? ' 

His  journey  seemed  to  have  no  ill  results,  for 
when  in  London  he  appeared  in  excellent  spirits 
and  good  health.  He  voted  for  the  Catholic 
Emancipation  Bill,  which  was  passed  by  a 

majority  of  one  hundred  and  five  ;  saw  many  of 
240 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

his  friends  and  entertained  them  in  St  James's 
Square  ;  dined  with  Lord  Rosslyn  ;  and  at  the 
request  of  the  Duke  of  Clarence,  presided  at  the 
Covent  Garden  theatrical  fund  dinner.  He  then 
set  out  again  for  France  where  he  was  joyously 
welcomed  by  his  wife,  his  daughter,  and  his 
son-in-law.  Always  lavishly  generous  to  the 
woman  he  loved,  he  came  back  to  her  laden 
with  presents.  '  Some  of  them '  she  writes 
'are  quite  beautiful  and  would  excite  the 
envy  of  half  my  sex.' 

Lord  Blessington  had  been  generally  careful  of 
his  health,  but  for  years  had  suffered  from  gout, 
was  susceptible  to  cold,  and  had  a  horror  of 
draughts.  D'Orsay  used  laughingly  to  tell  the 
Earl  he  could  detect  a  current  of  air  caused  by 
the  key  being  left  crossways  in  the  keyhole  of  a 
door. 

Charles  Mathews  tells  an  anecdote  of  being 
with  him  and  Lady  Blessington  when  they  went 
on  an  exploring  expedition  to  Baiae,  where  was 
an  old  Roman  villa  whose  foundations  extended 
out  into  the  bay,  whilst  portions  of  its  walls  rose 
about  two  or  three  feet  above  the  water. 

VOL.   I.  241  Q 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

On  these  young  Mathews  skipped  about  at 
his  pleasure,  when  to  his  surprise  Lord  Bless- 
ington  called  out  'Take  care,  take  care,  for 
heaven's  sake  mind  what  you  are  about  :  you'll 
be  in  the  water  to  a  certainty.' 

Mathews  took  no  heed,  on  which  the  warning 
was  repeated  greatly  to  his  surprise,  for  my 
lord  had  little  fear  of  danger  for  himself  or 
others ;  when  Lady  Blessington  begged  he 
would  let  the  boy  alone.  '  If  he  does  fall  into 
the  water  what  can  it  matter  ? '  she  asked. 
'  You  know  he  swims  like  a  fish.' 

'  Yes,  yes  '  answered  the  Earl  '  that's  all  very 
well,  but  I  shall  catch  my  death  driving  home 
in  the  carriage  with  him.' 

At  the  time  when  danger  was  nearest  to  him 
it  was  least  feared.  Paris  was  looking  at  its 
best  and  brightest  one  day  soon  after  his 
return  from  London,  the  parity  of  spring  and 
the  promise  of  summer  in  the  air,  the  sky  clear 
for  the  sun,  and  the  city  gay  with  colour,  all  on 
this  May  day  which  was  to  be  the  last  but 
one  for  this  most  devoted  of  husbands,  this 

generous-hearted,  open-handed,  pleasure-loving 
242 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

man ;  than  whom  as  Walter  Savage  Landor 
wrote,  '  none  was  ever  dearer  or  more  delightful 
to  his  friends.' 

It  was  on  a  Saturday  the  23d  of  the  month 
that  soon  after  the  mid-day  meal  he  complained 
of  not  feeling  well  ;  when  he  drank  a  few  spoon- 
fuls of  Eau  de  Melisse  in  water.  An  hour 
or  so  later,  feeling  much  better  he  ordered  his 
horse,  and  followed  by  his  servant  rode  out  of 
the  courtyard  of  his  house,  a  gallant  upright 
figure,  his  sunny  high-coloured  face  turned  to- 
wards the  window  from  which  his  wife  watched 
him,  he  waving  his  hand  in  response  to  her 
smiles. 

A  little  later  and  he  was  carried  home  insen- 
sible from  an  attack  of  apoplexy.  Doctors 
were  hastily  summoned,  and  all  that  love  could 
do  was  done  ;  the  knowledge  of  its  helplessness 
being  in  such  cases  love's  bitterest  grief.  From 
the  first  he  remained  speechless  and  insensible, 
his  wife  distracted  and  fearful  beside  him, 
servants  coming  and  going,  his  daughter  and 
her  husband  seldom  absent  from  the  room  over 

which  the  sombreness  of  death  seemed  already 
243 


to  have  settled.  All  through  Sunday,  a  day  of 
sunshine  and  joyousness  without,  of  grief  and 
terror  within,  his  condition  remained  un- 
changed :  but  on  Monday  morning  at  half-past 
four  the  stertorous  breathing  ceased,  and  those 
around  were  forced  to  recognise  that  he  was 
gone.  In  this  way  did  Charles  James  first  Earl 
of  Blessington  die  in  the  forty-sixth  year  of  his 
age. 

'  Nothing  can  equal  the  grief  of  poor  Lady 
Blessington'  writes  her  sister  to  Landor.  'In 
fact  she  is  so  ill  that  we  are  quite  uneasy  about 
her,  and  so  is  also  poor  Lady  Harriet.  But 
not  only  ourselves  but  all  our  friends  are  in  the 
greatest  affliction  since  this  melancholy  event. 
Fancy  what  a  dreadful  blow  it  is  to  us  all  to 
lose  him ;  he  who  was  so  kind,  so  generous,  so 
truly  good  a  man.' 

By  this  unforeseen  event  his  wife  was  de- 
prived of  the  man  who  had  raised  her  from 
dependence  and  obscurity  to  rank  and  fortune, 
whose  will  was  hers,  whose  life  was  devoted  to 
her.  In  every  way  her  loss  was  irreparable 

and  she  mourned  him    bitterly.      Their   many 
244 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

friends  wrote  messages  of  sympathy  which 
at  such  a  time  had  little  power  to  touch 
the  wound  with  healing.  Amongst  all  she 
received,  those  written  by  Landor,  appealed  to 
her  most.  In  a  letter  dated  the  6th  of  June  he 
writes  to  her  : — 

'  If  I  defer  it  any  longer.,  I  know  not  how 
or  when  I  shall  be  able  to  fulfil  so  melancholy 
a  duty.  The  whole  of  this  day  I  have  spent 
in  that  stupid  depression  which  some  may  feel 
without  a  great  calamity,  and  which  others  can 
never  feel  at  all.  Everyone  that  knows  me 
knows  the  sentiments  I  bore  towards  that  dis- 
interested and  upright  and  kind-hearted  man, 
than  whom  none  was  ever  dearer  or  more 
delightful  to  his  friends.  If  to  be  condoled 
with  by  many,  if  to  be  esteemed  and  beloved  by 
all  whom  you  have  admitted  to  your  society  is 
any  comfort,  that  comfort  at  least  is  yours.  I 
know  how  inadequate  it  must  be  at  such  a 
moment,  but  I  know  too  that  the  sentiment 
will  survive  when  the  bitterness  of  sorrow  shall 
have  past  away. 

'  You  know  how   many  have  had  reason  to 
245 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

speak  of  you  with  gratitude,  and  all  speak  in 
admiration  of  your  generous  and  gentle  heart, 
incapable  as  they  are  of  estimating  the  eleva- 
tion of  your  mind. 

'  Among  the  last  letters  I  received,  was  one 
from  Mrs  Dashwood,  whose  sister  married  poor 
Reginald  Heber,  the  late  Bishop  of  Calcutta. 
She  is  a  cousin  of  Hare's,  and  has  heard 
Augustus  speak  of  you  as  I  have  often  written. 
Her  words  are  (if  she  speaks  of  faults,  remember 
you  are  both  women),  "  I  wish  I  was  intimate 
with  her,  for,  whatever  may  be  her  faults,  so 
many  virtues  can  be  told  of  few." 

'  These  are  the  expressions  of  a  woman  who 
has  seen  and  lived  amongst  whatever  is  best 
and  most  brilliant,  and  whose  judgment  is  as 
sound  as  her  heart,  and  does  she  not  speak 
of  introduction  merely,  but  of  intimacy:  it  is 
neither  her  curiosity  nor  her  pride  that  seeks 
the  gratification. 

'  I  fear  that  the  recovery  of  your  health  may 
yet  be  retarded,  about  which  I  have  often 
thought  of  writing  to  Count  D'Orsay,  for  nothing 

is  more  inconsiderate  than  to  oppress  with  a 
246 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

weight  of  letters  one  whom  you  know  to  suffer, 
and  to  be  more  than  enough  fatigued  already. 
May  he  and  his  Countess  endeavour  to  promote 
your  happiness  as  anxiously  as  you  have  pro- 
moted theirs ! 

'  Believe  me,  dear  Lady  Blessington,  your 
very  faithful  and  devoted  servV 

And  the  following  month  he  writes  to  her  on 
the  same  subject : — 

'DEAR  LADY  BLESSINGTON, — Too  well  was 
I  aware  how  great  my  pain  must  be  in  reading 
your  letter.  So  many  hopes  are  torn  away  from 
us  by  this  unexpected  and  most  cruel  blow.  I 
cannot  part  with  the  one  of  which  the  greatness 
and  the  justness  of  your  grief  almost  deprives 
me — that  you  will  recover  your  health  and  spirits. 
If  they  could  return  at  once,  or  very  soon,  you 
would  be  unworthy  of  that  love  which  the 
kindest  and  best  of  human  beings  lavished  on 
you.  Longer  life  was  not  necessary  for  him  to 
estimate  your  affection  for  him,  and  those  graces 
of  soul  which  your  beauty,  in  its  brightest  day, 
but  faintly  shadowed.  He  told  me  that  you 

were   requisite   to  his   happiness,   and    that   he 

247 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

could  not  live  without  you.  Suppose  thefi  he 
had  survived  you — his  departure,  in  that  case, 
could  not  have  been  so  easy  as  it  was,  so  un- 
conscious of  pain — of  giving  it,  or  leaving  it 
behind.  I  would  most  wish  such  a  temper  and 
soul  as  his,  and  next  to  them  such  a  dissolution. 
Tho'  my  hand  and  my  whole  body  shakes  as  I 
am  writing  it,  yet  I  am  writing  the  truth.  Its 
suddenness — the  thing  most  desirable — is  the 
thing  that  most  shocks  us.  I  am  comforted  at 
the  reflection  that  so  gentle  a  heart  received  no 
affliction  from  the  anguish  and  despair  of  those 
he  loved.  You  have  often  brought  me  over  to 
your  opinion  after  an  obstinate  rather  than  a 
powerful  contest  ;  let  me,  now  I  am  more  in  the 
right,  bring  you  over  by  degrees  to  mine,  and 
believe  me,  dear  Lady  Blessington,  your  ever 
devoted  servant.' 

The  Earl's  death  had  been  so  sudden,  so  un- 
foreseen, that  its  shock  and  pain  were  the  more 
terrible  to  one  who  owed  him  an  inestimable 
debt  of  love  and  gratitude  which  it  had  been  her 
highest  happiness  to  repay.  Since  her  marriage 

her  life  had  been  so  full  of  pleasure  that  this 
248 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

quick  succeeding  grief  was  intolerable.  The 
world  seemed  completely  changed  for  her.  And 
as  in  all  sensitive  natures  the  strength  of  the 
body  depends  on  the  condition  of  the  mind,  her 
health  gave  way  and  caused  much  anxiety  to 
those  around. 

The  state  of  her  feelings  will  be  best  under- 
stood when  the  following  letter  written  two 
months  after  her  loss,  to  Mrs  Charles  Mathews, 
is  read  : — 

'  I  thank  you  for  your  kind  letter '  she  begins 
'  and  feel  deeply  sensible  of  the  sympathy  of 
you  and  your  excellent  family,  under  the  cruel 
and  heavy  blow  that  has  fallen  on  me  in  the  loss 
of  the  best  of  husbands  and  of  men  ;  these  are 
not  mere  words  of  course,  as  all  who  knew  him 
will  bear  witness,  for  never  did  so  kind  or  gentle 
a  heart  inhabit  a  human  form  ;  and  I  feel  this 
dreadful  blow  with  even  more  bitterness,  because 
it  appears  to  me,  that  while  I  possessed  the  in- 
estimable blessing  I  have  lost,  I  was  not  to 
the  full  extent  sensible  of  its  value ;  while  now 
all  his  many  virtues  and  good  qualities  rise  up 

every  moment  in    memory,  and    I    would   give 

249 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

worlds  to  pass  over  again  the  years  that  can 
never  return. 

'  Had  I  been  prepared  for  this  dreadful  event 
by  any  previous  illness,  I  might  perhaps  have 
borne  up  against  it:  but  falling  on  me  like 
some  dreadful  storm,  it  has  for  ever  struck  at 
the  root  of  my  peace  of  mind,  and  rendered 
all  the  future  a  blank.  It  is  not  whilst  those  to 
whom  we  are  attached  are  around  us  in  the 
enjoyment  of  health  and  the  prospect  of  a  long 
life,  that  we  can  judge  of  the  extent  of  our  feel- 
ings towards  them,  or  how  necessary  they  are 
to  our  existence.  We  are  God  help  us,  too  apt 
to  underrate  the  good  we  have,  and  to  see  the 
little  defects  to  which  even  the  most  faultless 
are  subject :  while  their  good  qualities  are  not  re- 
membered as  they  ought  to  be,  until  some  cruel 
blow  like  that  which  has  blighted  me,  draws 
the  veil  from  our  eyes,  and  every  virtue,  every 
proof  of  affection,  are  remembered  with  anguish, 
while  every  defect  is  forgotten. 

'What  renders  my  feelings  still  more  bitter 
is,  that  during  the  last  few  years  my  health 

has  been   so   bad,   and   violent   attacks   in  my 
250 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

head  so  frequent,  that  I  allowed  my  mind 
to  be  too  much  engrossed  by  my  own  selfish 
feelings,  and  an  idea  of  my  poor  dear  and 
ever-to-be-lamented  husband  being  snatched 
away  before  me,  never  could  have  been  con- 
templated. 

'  Alas,  he  who  was  in  perfect  health,  and  whose 
life  was  so  precious  and  so  valuable  to  so  many, 
is  in  one  fatal  day  torn  from  me  for  ever,  while 
I,  who  believed  my  days  numbered  am  left  to 
drag  on  a  life  I  now  feel  a  burden. 

'  Excuse  my  writing  to  you  in  this  strain  : 
I  would  not  appear  unkind  or  ungrateful  in 
not  answering  your  letters,  and  my  feelings 
are  too  bitter  to  prevent  my  writing  in  any 
other.' 

In  a  letter  penned  more  than  five  years  after 
her  husband's  death,  a  date  which  it  may  be 
well  to  bear  in  mind,  she  gives  expression  to 
her  feelings  regarding  him,  in  a  letter  addressed 
to  Landor.  In  this,  bearing  date  July  1834  she 
says : — 

'  I  have  often  wished  that  you  would  note 
down  for  me  your  reminiscences  of  your  friend- 
251 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

ship  and  the  conversations  it  led  to  with  my  dear 
and  ever-to-be-lamented  husband  :  he  who  so 
valued  and  loved  you,  and  was  so  little  under- 
stood by  the  common  herd  of  mankind.  We 
who  knew  the  nobleness,  the  generosity,  and 
the  refined  delicacy  of  his  nature,  can  render 
justice  to  his  memory,  and  I  wish  that  posterity 
through  your  means  should  know  him  as  he 
was.  All  that  I  could  say  would  be  viewed  as 
the  partiality  of  a  wife,  but  a  friend  and  such 
a  friend  as  you,  might  convey  a  true  sketch  of 
him.' 

And  now  began  a  time  of  change  and  trouble 
for  one  whose  ways  had  previously  been  made 
smooth  by  every  means  that  luxury  and 
love  could  suggest.  For  in  the  first  place 
through  the  death  of  her  lord  her  circumstances 
underwent  a  change,  as  indeed  they  must  have 
done  had  he  lived,  owing  to  his  vast  expendi- 
ture, his  disregard  for  money,  his  neglect  of  his 
property  which  had  become  heavily  encum- 
bered. According  to  his  last  will  and  testa- 
ment he  left  her  two  thousand  a  year  inclusive 

of  one  thousand  pounds  settled  on  her  at  the 
252 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

time  of  his  marriage  ;  '  with  all  her  own  jewels, 
requesting  that  she  may  divide  my  late  wife's 
jewels  between  my  two  daughters  at  the  time 
of  her  decease';  all  his  carnages,  parapher- 
nalia and  plate  ;  and  the  lease  of  the  house  in 
St  James's  Square,  at  the  expiration  of  which 
the  furniture,  books  etc.  were  to  be  moved  to 
his  residence  at  Mountjoy  Forest.  It  may 
also  be  mentioned  here  that  he  left  a  thousand 
pounds  each  to  Robert  and  to  Mary  Anne 
Power. 

To  one  living  in  the  splendour  to  which  she 
had  been  accustomed  for  the  past  ten  years,  an 
annuity  of  two  thousand  a  year  seemed  small. 
But  this  was  not  all.  Within  four  months  of 
her  husband's  death,  at  a  time  that  she  was 
suffering  mentally  and  physically,  and  before 
Count  D'Orsay  was  separated  from  his  wife, 
the  report  of  a  scandal  was  heard  which  con- 
nected his  name  with  Lady  Blessington ;  a 
scandal  which  first  found  voice  in  a  scurrilous 
London  newspaper  called  the  Age. 

This  was  a  paper  which  in  no  ways  relied  for 
its  circulation  on  the  intelligence  of  the  day  but 
253 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

rather  on  its  slanderous  attacks  on  individuals. 
It  was  started  in  1828  and  had  for  its  first 
editor  one  Richards,  who  soon  gave  place  to  the 
notorious  Westmacott.  Tory  in  its  politics  it 
especially  assailed  the  characters  of  those  who 
differed  from  its  political  opinions.  It  was  not 
however  public  men  alone,  but  private  indi- 
viduals, women  as  well  as  men,  generally  those 
of  high  social  standing,  against  whom  it  made 
the  gravest  charges. 

This  paper  was  rivalled  but  not  equalled  in 
vileness  by  the  Satirist,  whose  province  it  was 
to  defame  all  connected  with  the  Tory  party  ; 
so  that  between  those  pests  no  man  or  woman 
was  safe.  Calumnies  were  their  stock-in-trade : 
to  traduce  was  their  delight. 

It  is  humiliating  to  human  nature  to  have  to 
relate  that  these  journals  were  largely  indebted 
for  the  foul  reports  they  published,  to  individuals 
— chiefly  women — who  from  motives  of  personal 
malice  desired  to  ruin  those  they  traduced  and 
to  whom  they  openly  professed  friendship,  as 
was  proved.  There  was  one  means  however 
of  escape,  and  that  was  by  paying  the  heavy 
254 


LA  D  Y  BLESSINGTON 

demands  of  the  blackmailer :  for  the  editors 
of  these  villainous  papers  were  in  the  habit  of 
writing  to  their  intended  victims,  telling  them 
that  certain  grave  charges  had  been  made 
against  them,  and  intimating  that  they  were 
aware  of  facts  more  grievous  still,  particulars  of 
which  were  for  the  present  withheld,  but  all  of 
which  would  be  published  if  within  a  certain 
date  a  specified  sum  was  not  forthcoming.  If 
this  were  paid,  they  need  have  no  uneasiness  ; 
the  unpleasant  matter  referred  to  would  never 
see  the  light. 

From  the  fact  that  many  innocent  but  pusill- 
animous persons  paid  the  money  demanded 
rather  than  have  their  reputations  blasted  ;  as 
well  as  from  the  second  fact  that  these  papers 
small  in  size  and  published  at  sevenpence  a 
number  had  each  a  circulation  of  about  nine 
thousand  copies  a  week,  it  will  be  seen  that 
the  proprietors  prospered:  their  respective  in- 
comes reaching  about  six  thousand  a  year. 

Though  some  of  the  maligned  were  pleased 
to  suffer  in  silence,  in  the  hope  of  being  able  to 
live  down  the  scandals  circulated  about  them 
255 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

in  these  papers,  there  were  others  more  courage- 
ous who  sought  justice  in  the  law  courts,  or 
satisfaction  by  personal  punishment  of  the 
editors.  Actions  for  libel  were  therefore  con- 
tinually taken  and  heavy  damages  awarded  to 
the  injured ;  but  the  publicity  which  the 
journals  received  at  such  times,  but  served  as 
advertisements  which  increased  their  circula- 
tion ;  so  that  the  charges  for  advertisements 
were  raised. 

Lord  Alfred  Paget  was  to  his  credit  one  of 
the  courageous  sufferers  who  sought  redress 
from  the  law.  He  had  been  charged  by  the 
Age  with  striving  to  extort  money  from  Lord 
Cardigan  by  accusing  him  of  improper  inter- 
course with  Lady  Alfred.  The  plaintiff  swore 
that  the  conductors  of  the  Age  had  already 
threatened  that  if  he  did  not  remit  them  a 
certain  sum,  they  would  publish  private  facts 
in  their  possession  regarding  the  Paget  family, 
a  sum  which  he  had  paid. 

Those  who  sought  to  punish  the  editors  were 
not  in  general  so  successful  as  those  who  ap- 
pealed to  the  law  ;   for  it   was  the  practice  of 
256 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

these  papers  to  have  in  their  employ  an  indi- 
vidual of  Herculean  proportions,  generally  a 
Hibernian  of  the  brutal  type,  who  on  the  editor 
being  inquired  for,  stepped  forward  bludgeon 
in  hand,  and  declaring  himself  to  be  that  indi- 
vidual, demanded  with  a  grim  smile  what  his 
visitor  might  be  pleased  to  \vant.  That  such 
a  condition  of  tyranny,  '  the  greatest  under  the 
sun,'  as  the  Lord  Chief  Justice  who  tried  one 
of  the  libel  cases  stated,  was  suffered  for  years, 
seems  extraordinary :  but  it  is  more  wonder- 
ful still  that  the  chief  offender  Westmacott 
was  received  by  a  company  of  decent  men. 

Such  however  was  the  case  :  for  James  Grant 
says  that  soon  after  coming  to  London  he 
dined  at  Willis's  Rooms  on  a  public  occasion 
when  to  his  surprise  he  found  the  editor  and 
proprietor  of  the  Age  amongst  the  company, 
and  learned  that  his  name  had  previously 
figured  in  the  list  of  stewards,  most  of  whom 
were  dukes,  marquises,  and  earls,  chiefly  belong- 
ing to  the  Tory  party.  '  And  at  the  dinner  '  he 
says  'no  man  played  a  more  prominent  part 

than  he.     Was  it  not  lamentable  to  see  all  the 
VOL.  i.  257  R 


THE  MOST  GOXGEOUS 

principles  alike  of  honour  and  morality  sacri- 
ficed, as  was  the  case  in  this  instance,  to  the 
exigencies  of  party  ?  ' 

This  was  the  editor  in  whose  paper  appeared 
the  insinuations  against  Lady  Blessington's 
reputation  ;  insinuations  which  were  repeated 
by  the  thoughtless  and  malicious,  from  the 
effects  of  which  she  was  never  able  to  rid 
herself. 

As  may  be  surmised  this  filth  was  flung  at 
her  from  behind  the  shelter  of  an  anonymous 
name.  In  a  letter  dated  Paris  24th  of  September 
1829,  and  signed  '  Otiosus,'  the  writer  after  men- 
tioning various  people,  women  as  well  as  men,  in 
a  flippant,  impertinent,  or  injurious  way,  goes  on 
to  say  '  Alfred  D'Orsay  with  his  pretty  pink  and 
white  face  drives  about  a  la  Petersham  with  a 
cocked-up  hat  and  a  long-tailed  cream-coloured 
horse.  He  says  he  will  have  seventeen  thousand 
a  year  to  spend,  others  say  seventeen  hundred  : 
he  and  my  lady  go  on  as  usual.' 

In  a  second  letter  dated  October  5th  the  same 
writer  ventures  still  further  in  his  scandalous  in- 
sinuations. 'What,  a  menage  is  that  of  Lady 
258 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

Blessington '  he  says.  '  It  would  create  strange 
sensations  were  it  not  for  one  fair  flower  that  still 
blooms  under  the  shade  of  the  Upas.  Can  it  be 
conceived  in  England  that  Mr  Alfred  D'Orsay 
has  publicly  detailed  to  what  degree  he  carries 
his  apathy  for  his  pretty  interesting  wife.  This 
young  gentleman,  Lady  Blessington,  and  the 
virgin  wife  of  sweet  sixteen  all  live  together.' 

Shocked  and  grieved  by  such  insinuations, 
Lady  Blessington  wrote  to  Mr  Powell  the  solici- 
tor and  friend  of  her  late  husband,  instructing  him 
to  take  proceedings  against  the  paper.  Probably 
he  did  not  consider  that  the  letters,  containing 
subtle  insinuations  rather  than  definite  charges, 
were  actionable ;  at  all  events  in  the  following 
December  Lady  Blessington  writes  to  a  friend 
complaining  that  nothing  as  yet  has  been  done 
*  either  in  discovering  the  author  of  the  scandal- 
ous attacks  against  me,  or  in  preventing  a 
renewal  of  them.' 

Later    she    heard    that   an    acquaintance    of 

theirs  a  certain  Colonel  C was  the  writer 

of  the  scandal,  and  when  next  she  saw  him  she 

charged  him  with  the  offence,  as  will  be  seen 

259 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

by  the  following  letter,  written  to  Mrs  Charles 
Mathevvs : — 

'  All  that  has  occurred  on  the-  subject  of  the 
attacks  in  the  Age,  I  shall  now  lay  before  you. 
I  wrote  to  Mr  Powell  urging  him  to  commence  a 
prosecution  against  the  editor  and  stated  to  him 
that  Lord  Stuart  de  Rothsay  had  advised  me  to 
do  so,  as  the  only  means  of  putting  a  stop  to 
these  attacks.  Mr  Powell  was  of  a  different 
opinion,  and  advised  our  treating  the  attack  with 
contempt ;  and  so  the  affair  ended. 

'When  Colonel  C returned  to  Paris  in 

February  and  came  to  see  me,  I  told  him  of  my 
information  as  to  his  being  the  author  of  the 
attacks  ;  but  this  I  did  without  ever  even  hinting 
at  my  informant.  He  declared  his  innocence  in 
the  most  positive  terms,  gave  his  word  of  honour 
that  he  had  never  written  a  line  in  his  life  of 
scandal  for  any  paper,  and  never  could  lend 
himself  to  so  base  and  vile  a  proceeding.  His 
manner  of  denial  was  most  convincing,  and  so  it 
ended. 

'  Two  months  ago  Captain  G of  the  Guards 

who  had  been  very  severely  attacked  in  the  Age 
260 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

went  to  London  and  took  a  friend  with  him  to  the 
Editor  of  the  Age,  who  even  gave  him  a  small 
piece  of  the  letter  sent  from  Paris,  which  Cap- 
tain G sent  Comte  D'Orsay,  and  which  is 

a  totally  different  writing  from  Colonel  C 's  : 

and  so  here  ended  the  business,  as  it  was  use- 
less to  do  anything  more  except  commence  a 
prosecution  which  I  still  think  ought  to  have 
been  done. 

'  Mr  Powell  has  never  given  either  Comte 
D'Orsay  or  myself  the  least  information  since 
last  January  on  this  subject;  and  now  you  know 
all  that  I  do  on  this  point.  I  have  never  seen 
a  single  number  of  the  Age,  do  not  know  a 
single  person  who  takes  it  in,  and  never  hear 
it  named,  so  that  I  am  in  total  ignorance  as  to 
the  attacks  it  contains.' 

This  scandalous  report  seems  to  have  had 
little  effect  upon  her  friends,  for  not  only  did 
the  distinguished  foreigners  with  whom  she  was 
already  intimate  continue  to  gather  round  her, 
but  English  acquaintances  passing  through  or 
visiting  Paris,  made  certain  to  call  upon  her. 

Amongst  them  such  men  as  Lord  John  Russell, 

261 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Samuel  Rogers,  the  Duke  of  Hamilton,  Lords 
Palmerston,  Castlereagh,  Pembroke,  and  Cado- 
gan,  who  delighted  to  converse  with  her. 

Moreover,  her  step-daughter,  known  as  Lady 
Mary,  visited  and  remained  with  her  three 
weeks ;  the  girl  feeling  the  charm  of  her  per- 
sonality which  all  who  approached  Lady 
Blessington  were  quick  to  acknowledge.  '  She 
is  all  that  is  most  perfect '  the  latter  writes  of 
her  step-daughter  '  her  dear  father's  kind,  noble, 
and  generous  heart,  with  a  manner  the  most 
captivating :  I  adore  her,  and  I  believe  she 
loves  me  as  few  girls  can  love  a  mother.' 

She  now  became  occupied  with  business 
matters  in  connection  with  her  husband's  pro- 
perty which  was  in  some  confusion ;  and  the 
inconvenience  of  remaining  in  Paris  became 
evident.  Still  she  was  reluctant  to  leave  the 
French  capital  and  in  a  letter  to  Mrs  Charles 
Mathews  dated  October  1829  she  expresses 
her  dislike  of  returning  to  England,  and  de- 
clares that  business  alone  could  persuade  her 
to  settle  in  London  '  for  death  '  she  adds  '  has 

deprived    me   of    the   friend    who    could    have 
262 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

rendered  my  visit  there  as  happy  and  pros- 
perous as  all  my  days  were  when  he  lived. 
The  contrast  between  the  past  and  the  present 
would  and  will  be  most  poignant,  but  should 
our  affairs  require  it  I  shall  certainly  go.' 

And  two  months  later  she  says  she  is  still  ill 
in  mind  and  body  and  unequal  to  the  exertion 
of  writing.  '  Indeed  my  health  suffers  so  much 
that  I  fear  I  shall  be  obliged  to  give  up  residing 
at  Paris,  and  be  compelled  to  try  the  effects  of 
English  air :  and  this  will  be  very  painful  to 
me,  after  having  gone  to  so  much  expense  and 
trouble  in  arranging  my  rooms  here,  where  I  am 
so  comfortably  lodged,  besides  which  a  resi- 
dence in  England  under  my  present  circum- 
stances would  be  so  different  to  all  that  I  have 
been  accustomed  to,  that  I  cannot  contemplate 
it  without  pain.  But  after  all,  without  health 
there  is  no  enjoyment  of  even  the  quiet  and 
sober  nature  which  I  seek — a  cheerful  fireside 
with  a  friend  or  two  to  enliven  it,  or  what  is 
still  perhaps  more  easily  had,  a  good  book. 
I  have  never  had  a  day's  health  since  I  have 

been    in    France :  and    though    I    do    all   that 
263 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

I  am  advised,  I  get  worse  rather  than 
better.' 

Towards  the  end  of  this  year  her  spirits  seem 
to  have  fallen  to  a  low  ebb,  and  she  evidently 
suffered  keenly  from  depression. 

Writing  to  a  friend  from  Paris,  November  30, 
1829  she  says  mournfully  enough  that  her  cor- 
respondent is  one  of  the  few  who  do  not  quite 
forget  her :  that  she  has  experienced  much  in- 
gratitude and  unkindness  which  added  to  the 
heavy  blow  that  had  fallen  on  her  made  her 
dread  lest  she  should  become  a  misanthrope  and 
her  heart  shut  itself  against  the  world. 

'If you  knew'  she  adds  'the  bitter  feelings 
the  treatment  I  have  met  with  has  excited  in  my 
breast,  you  would  not  wonder  that  it  has  frozen 
the  genial  current  of  life,  and  that  I  look  as 
I  am,  more  of  another  world  than  this.  Had 
God  spared  me  my  ever  dear  and  lamented 
husband,  I  could  have  borne  up  against  the 
unkindness  and  ingratitude  of  friends  estranged  : 
but  as  it  is  the  blow  has  been  too  heavy  for  me, 
and  I  look  in  vain  on  every  side  for  consolation. 

'  I  am  wrong  my  dearest  in  writing  to  you  in 
264 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

this  gloomy  mood,  but  if  I  waited  until  I  be- 
came more  cheerful,  God  alone  knows  when  your 
letter  would  be  answered.  You  are  young  and 
life  is  all  before  you,  take  example  by  me  and 
conquer  while  yet  you  may,  tenderness  of  heart 
and  susceptibility  of  feeling  which  only  tend  to 
make  the  person  who  possesses  them  wretched  ; 
•for  be  assured  you  will  meet  but  few  capable  of 
understanding  or  appreciating  such  feelings,  and 
you  will  become  the  dupe  of  the  cold  and  heart- 
less, who  contemn  what  they  cannot  under- 
stand, and  repay  with  ingratitude  the  affection 
lavished  on  them. 

'  I  would  not  thus  advise  you,  if  I  did  not 
know  that  you  had  genius ;  and  whoever  had 
that  fatal  gift  without  its  attendant  malady, 
susceptibility  and  deep  feeling,  which  in  spite 
of  all  mental  endowments  render  their  possessor 
dependent  on  others  for  their  happiness  :  for 
it  may  appear  a  paradox,  but  it  is  nevertheless 
true,  those  who  are  most  endowed  can  the 
least  suffice  for  their  own  happiness.' 

For  months  she  hesitated  about  leaving  Paris. 

In  May    1830  she    writes   that   she   can    name 

265 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

no  definite  period  for  her  return  to  England ; 
'  pecuniary  affairs  prevent  me  at  present,  though 
I  am  anxious  to  go,  in  the  hope  that  change  of 
air  may  do  me  good,  my  health  and  spirits 
being  very,  very  poorly.  This  month  as  your 
heart  may  tell  you,  is  a  great  trial  to  me ;  it  has 
renewed  my  grief  with  a  vividness  that  you 
can  understand :  for  it  is  dreadful  to  see  all 
nature  blooming  around,  and  to  think  that  the 
last  time  I  welcomed  the  approach  of  spring, 
I  was  as  happy  as  heart  could  wish,  blessed 
with  the  best  and  most  delicate  of  friends,  while 
now  all  around  me  wears  the  same  aspect,  and 
all  within  my  heart  is  blighted  for  ever.' 

It  was  not  until  November  1830  that  she 
left  Paris.  When  the  day  came  for  her  to  bid 
farewell  to  her  friends  she  quite  broke  down, 
foreseeing  that  she  would  never  meet  many  of 
them  again. 

'  Adieu  Paris '  she  writes  in  her  diary  '  Two 
years  and  a  half  ago  I  entered  you  with  glad- 
ness, and  the  future  looked  bright ;  I  leave  you 
with  altered  feelings,  for  the  present  is  cheer- 
less and  the  future  clouded.' 
266 


CHAPTER  IX 

In  St  James's  Square — Removal  to  Seamore 
Place — Splendour  of  Lady  Blessing  ton's  Home — 
Distinguished  Guests — D'Orsay  the  Leader  of 
Dandies — Courted  by  all — His  Neglected  Wife 
— Separation — Lady  Harriet's  Friendship  with 
Royalty — Scandal — A  Brave  Show — Lady  Bless- 
ington's  Letters. 

IN  November  1830  Lady  Blessington  with 
her  sister  Miss  Power  and  the  Count  and 
Countess  D'Orsay  returned  to  London  and 
took  up  their  residence  in  St  James's  Square. 
Their  stay  here  however  was  not  for  long. 
It  will  be  remembered  that  according  to  the 
late  Earl's  will,  his  wife  was  left  this  residence 
until  its  lease  expired,  when  its  furniture  and 
belongings  were  to  be  removed  to  Mountjoy 
Forest.  To  maintain  so  large  an  establish- 
ment was  an  expense  which  Lady  Blessington 
with  her  dowry  of  merely  two  thousand 
267 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

a  year,  could  not  afford :  and  as  she  had 
brought  with  her  from  abroad  a  quantity  of 
beautiful  cabinets,  tables,  and  other  furniture, 
together  with  carpets,  pictures,  china,  orna- 
ments, and  various  objects  of  art,  she  resolved 
to  sell  her  interest  in  the  remaining  years  of 
the  lease,  and  rent  a  smaller  house  for  which 
she  already  had  almost  sufficient  furniture. 

Though  she  sanctioned  and  enjoyed  the 
lavish  expenditure  in  which  her  husband's 
princely  income  allowed  him  to  indulge  ;  from 
this  time  forward,  without  depriving  herself 
of  the  splendour  which  had  become  necessary 
to  her  enjoyment,  she  became  an  excellent 
manager,  who  systematically  kept  her  accounts 
and  sought  to  control  her  outlay.  Her  first 
movement  now  was  to  let  the  St  James's 
Square  mansion  which  was  rented  furnished 
by  the  Windham  Club  for  thirteen  hundred 
and  fifty  pounds  per  annum  ;  but  as  the  head 
rent  was  eight  hundred  and  forty  pounds  a 
year,  this  did  not  add  much  to  her  income : 
especially  as  she  was  being  continually  worried 

by    claims    for    repairs    of    the    house    which 
268 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

was  much  dilapidated.  She  therefore  eventually 
sold  her  interest  in  it  to  the  executors  of 
Lord  Blessington's  will. 

From  St  James's  Square  she  moved  to  a 
house  in  Seamore  Place  which,  decorated 
from  designs  by  D'Orsay  and  furnished  accord- 
ing to  her  taste,  became  as  Disraeli  said 
'  the  most  charming  of  modern  houses.'  Its 
library  was  long  and  narrow,  with  deep 
windows  looking  out  upon  Hyde  Park,  its 
walls  of  white  and  gold  were  well  nigh  covered 
with  handsomely  bound  volumes,  above  whose 
cases  stood  royal  blue  vases  that  had  once 
belonged  to  Marie  Antoinette  and  porcelain 
bowls  on  whose  purple  surface  glittered  the 
Imperial  cipher.  Etruscan  tripods  stood  in 
its  corners  ;  in  its  recesses  were  desks  of  red 
tortoise-shell  boule  work.  The  drawing-room 
with  its  deep  rich  tones  of  ruby  and  gold, 
was  not  less  splendid.  Here  were  turquoise  and 
Sevres-topped  tables,  old  boule-winged  cabinets, 
antique  jugs  of  flawless  amber  that  had 
belonged  to  Josephine,  Indian  jars,  porcelain 

essence     burners,    candelabra     of    jasper    and 
269 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

filagree  gold,  and  a  thousand  other  objects 
that  dazzled  and  delighted  the  sight. 

Jekyll  writing  to  a  friend  described  the 
house  as  '  a  bijou,  or,  as  Sir  W.  Curtis'  lady 
said  a  perfect  bougie'  Little  wonder  that 
Sir  William  Cell  writing  from  Naples  says, 
that  Keppel  Craven  tells  him,  her  house  '  is 
so  exquisite  in  all  respects  that  he  thinks 
it  impossible  anything  can  ever  tempt  you 
to  move  again.' 

Altogether  Lady  Blessington  made  her  home 
a  stately  and  beautiful  place  worthy  of  the 
bright  company  that  was  to  gather  there  and 
become  associated  with  her  name  for  ever. 
For  no  sooner  had  she  settled  in  London 
than  the  friends  who  had  been  introduced  to 
her  by  her  husband,  as  well  as  many  of  those 
she  had  met  abroad,  mindful  of  the  charm 
of  her  personality,  grateful  for  the  kindness 
she  had  extended  to  them,  hastened  to  .pay 
her  their  court :  all  of  them  anxious  again  to 
expand  their  minds  in  the  atmosphere  of  one 
so  sympathetic  and  gracious,  so  graceful  and 

beautiful. 

270 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

The  noblest  men  in  the  land,  ministers, 
ambassadors,  and  politicians  ;  great  artists 
such  as  Sir  Edwin  Landseer,  Sir  Michael 
Archer  Shee,  David  Wilkie,  Sir  Francis  Grant, 
Maclise,  and  Mulready ;  famous  poets  such  as 
Moore,  Rogers,  and  Campbell ;  Indian  princes ; 
generals  and  diplomatists  ;  men  of  various 
callings  and  diverse  minds  all  found  in  her 
the  interest  each  required  in  his  pursuit,  the 
advice  that  some  requested,  the  encourage- 
ment which  others  needed  ;  her  exquisite  tact 
guiding  her  to  the  knowledge  of  individual 
temperament,  and  prompting  the  words  ap- 
propriate to  each  man's  mood ;  the  natural 
kindness  of  her  heart  and  fascination  of  her 
personality,  binding  all  to  her  service,  free 
slaves  of  a  woman  they  loved. 

Never  was  she  seen  to  such  supreme 
advantage,  never  were  the  charms  of  her 
personality  more  persuasive  than  when  seated 
at  the  head  of  her  dinner-table  surrounded  by 
a  brilliant  company  of  friends.  Here,  resplend- 
ent and  picturesque,  enthroned  in  a  state- 
chair  glowing  in  crimson  and  gold,  which  had 
271 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

been  ordered  by  George  IV.  for  the  reception 
of  Louis  XVIII.  she  presided  over  a  feast 
worthy  of  her  guests  and  of  herself. 

Always  sumptuous  in  her  apparel,  the  rich- 
hued  velvets  and  sun-gleaming  satins  she 
wore,  lost  in  smoothness  by  contrast  with  the 
softness  of  her  rounded  throat,  the  delicate 
curving  breasts,  her  shoulders,  and  beautifully 
shaped  arms ;  with  every  elegant  movement  of 
which  her  jewels  shone  as  with  the  splendour 
of  starlight.  The  wide  calm  forehead  was  yet 
without  a  line,  the  exquisite  mouth  was  as 
mobile  and  tender  as  before.  The  grey-blue 
eyes  whose  wistfulness  was  visible  in  their 
depths,  whose  colour  deepened  to  violet  in 
the  shadow  of  their  lids,  lighted  a  face  not  the 
less  fascinating  now  it  no  longer  retained  the 
violent  freshness  of  youth  ;  for  time  had 
taught  and  sorrow  had  softened,  and  each  in 
turn  had  added  its  tribute  to  an  expression, 
that  more  than  the  shape  of  feature  or  the 
outline  of  face,  was  found  the  chiefest  of  her 
charms. 

The   soothing   light   of  candles   fell    upon   a 
272 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

table  set  with  a  service  of  chased  silver  and 
old  gold,  and  beautified — after  a  fashion  Lady 
Blessington  was  first  to  introduce — with  the 
luxuriant  colour  of  mellow  fruits  and  odorous 
flowers  in  dishes  and  bowls  of  sea  -  green 
Sevres  and  purple  porcelain.  The  rich  amber 
or  deep  ruby  of  rare  and  fragrant  wines 
caught  the  light  of  taper  flames,  whose  re- 
flections in  the  goblet-shaped  glasses,  gleamed 
as  might  sacred  lamps  on  the  altar  of 
Epicurus.  Servants  in  powder,  wearing 
magnificent  liveries  of  green  and  gold  walked 
silent-footed  as  if  they  trod  on  air,  serving 
ready-carved — a  mode  new  to  England — the 
pompous  procession  of  dishes  whose  insinu- 
ating flavour  wooed  the  most  reluctant  appetite. 
And  all  around,  serving  as  a  frame  to  so 
fair  a  picture,  was  the  superb  octagonal-shaped 
room  in  which  was  empannelled  mirrors  that 
duplicated  the  lights  until  they  looked  in- 
numerable^ Those  bidden  to  the  enjoyment 
of  such  perfect  pleasures,  were  men  whose 
talents  and  achievements  were  their  passports 
to  the  presence  of  their  gracious  hostess.  In 

VOL.  I.  273  S 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

such  company  as  hers,  amidst  such  scenes 
as  this,  the  heart  kept  holiday,  the  mind  was 
brightest.  And  so  the  wittiest  sally  of  Jekyll, 
the  cleverest  stories  of  Lyndhurst  and 
Brougham,  the  best  of  Moore's  bon  mots,  the 
worthiest  epigram  of  Rogers,  Lord  Wel- 
lesley's  daintiest  compliment,  were  reserved 
for  her  ears.  Indeed  at  her  table,  as  Jekyll 
wrote  '  there  was  wit,  fun,  epigram,  and  raillery 
enough  to  supply  fifty  county  members  for 
a  twelvemonth.'  ^ 

In  all  cases  the  conversation  around  her 
board  or  in  her  salon,  was  directed  rather 
than  led  by  her ;  who  though  a  delightful 
talker  and  a  ranconteuse  without  equal,  pre- 
ferred to  listen  to  those  who  could  charm 
and  amuse,  and  was  ever  anxious  to  draw 
from  each  his  views  on  the  talent  which  dis- 
tinguished him  most;  so  that  she  made  all 
men  appear  at  their  best  to  themselves  and 
to  others. 

At  this  date  her  circle  was  not  enriched 
by  the  host  of  editors,  authors,  and  journalists 

which  it  was  soon  to  number  when  she  joined 
274 


LAD  Y  BLESSINGTON 

their  ranks.  Nor  in  England,  were  women, 
her  own  relatives  and  a  few  intimates  excepted, 
found  at  her  table :  for  in  this  country  the 
circumstances  which  preceded  her  second 
marriage,  were  considered  to  place  an  insur- 
mountable obstacle  to  social  intercourse  with 
her  own  sex ;  a  prejudice  that  was  not  lessened 
by  the  scandalous  insinuations  of  a  scurrilous 
journal,  and  by  an  event  which  soon  happened 
-in  her  domestic  circle. 

It  may  however  be  mentioned  here  that 
many  of  her  most  intimate  friends  have  stated, 
that  none  of  those  who  knew  her  thoroughly, 
believed  her  guilty  of  the  charges  of  intimacy 
with  Count  D'Orsay,  made  against  her  by  the 
world  at  large,  which  remained  ignorant  of 
her  real  character  and  of  the  force  of  circum- 
stances by  which  she  was  beset. 

She  was  not  however  wholly  ostracised  by 
her  own  sex,  for  by  some  bye-law  of  conven- 
tion difficult  to  understand,  many  women, 
chiefly  belonging  to  the  literary  calling,  visited 
her  by  day,  but  rigorously  excluded  them- 
selves from  her  salon  at  night.  On  her  part 
275 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

Lady  Blessington  made  it  a  rule  never  to 
accept  invitations  even  when  coming  from 
those  who  called  upon  her  :  a  sense  of  dignity 
counselling  her  to  avoid  accidental  meeting 
with  those  who  doubting  her  position,  might 
wound  her  susceptibilities. 

Therefore  on  nights  when  she  did  not  visit 
the  theatre  or  the  opera  house,  she  received 
at  home  from  eight  till  twelve,  when  she 
enjoyed  the  conversation  of  the  most  intel- 
lectual men  of  the  day,  who  not  infrequently 
gave  her  their  confidence  and  sought  her 
advice ;  in  this  manner  probably  compensating 
for  her  exclusion  from  the  gossip,  scandal, 
and  frivolity  indulged  in  by  those  of  her 
sex  whose  virtue  debarred  them  from  her 
presence. 

Next  to  herself  the  member  of  her  house- 
hold on  whom  the  inquisitive  eyes  of  the 
world  were  most  watchfully  turned,  who  with 
her  occupied  the  chief  place  in  the  gossip  of 
society,  was  Count  D'Orsay.  On  his  return 
to  London  he  was  in  his  thirtieth  year,  a  tall 

distinguished-looking  man    with   a   remarkably 
276 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

graceful  figure,  clearly  cut  features,  auburn 
hair  and  hazel  eyes.  His  manners  had  the 
charm  and  courtesy  associated  with  the  courts 
of  France  in  olden  days ;  his  conversation  was 
brilliant  in  its  polished  vivacity :  his  talents 
were  various,  and  his  good-nature  was  ap- 
parent to  all.  Mrs  Newton  Crosland  whom 
he  once  took  into  dinner,  remarked  that  his 
hands,  large,  white,  and  apparently  soft,  'had 
not  the  physiognomy  which  pleases  the  critical 
observer  and  student  of  hands'  for  they  in- 
dicated self-indulgence.  She  was  indeed  one 
of  the  few  who  did  not  admire  him ;  for  he 
struck  her  observant  eyes  as  being  '  mannish 
rather  than  manly,  and  yet  with  a  touch  of 
effeminacy  quite  different  from  that  woman- 
like tenderness  which  adds  to  the  excellence 
of  man.'  The  many  who  liked  him  included 
Byron,  Lamartine,  and  Landor ;  and  later 
amongst  his  warmest  friends  were  Charles 
Dickens,  Captain  Marryat,  Disraeli  and  Bulwer  ; 
the  two  last-mentioned  authors  dedicating  each 
a  book  to  him  :  whilst  John  Forster  declared 

the    Count's    '  pleasantry,   wit,    and    kindliness, 

277 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

gave  him  a  wonderful  fascination ; '  an  attesta- 
tion borne  out  by  Albany  Fonblanque  who 
said  '  the  unique  characteristic  of  D'Orsay 
is,  that  the  most  brilliant  wit  is  uniformly 
exercised  in  the  most  good-natured  way.  He 
can  be  wittier  with  kindness  than  the  rest  of 
the  world  with  malice.' 

Born  without  a  sense  of  the  proportion  or 
value  of  money,  he  squandered  in  reckless 
extravagance  whatever  sums  came  in  his  way. 
His  wardrobe  was  inexhaustible,  his  horses 
were  thoroughbreds,  his  brougham  a  work  of 

art,  the  appointments  of  his  toilet  of  massive 

j^/ 
silver  and  old  gold. 

Above  all  things  he  delighted  in  emphasising 
his  noble  air  and  distinguished  figure  by  a 
peculiarity  of  dress  and  an  exaggeration  of 
fashion  which  in  a  man  of  less  remarkable 
appearance  might  be  considered  foppery  or 
affectation.  Among  other  extravagant  fancies 
he  suited  the  shape  of  his  hat  to  the  cut  of 
his  coat  :  donning  a  hat  of  smaller  dimensions 
when  wearing  a  thin  coat,  and  of  larger  size 

when  he  \vore  a  thick  overcoat  or  his  famous 
278 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

sealskin,  which  he  was  the  first  to  introduce 
to  England.  In  summer  he  was  seen  in  all 
the  glory  of  a  white  coat,  blue  satin  cravatv 
primrose  gloves  scented  with  eau  de  jasmine, 
and  patent  leather  boots  whose  lustre  was 
only  second  to  the  sun. 

The  leader  of  the  dandies,  they  copied  the 
cut  of  his  garments,  the  style  of  his  cravats, 
the  fashion  of  his  canes ;  whilst  bootmakers, 
tailors,  and  glovers  dubbed  their  wares  with 
his  name,  as  a  means  of  insuring  their  sale. 
But  though  he  occupied  the  unenviable  position 
of  a  leader  of  fashion,  his  talents  preserved 
him  from  being  despised  as  a  fop  by  his  in- 
tellectual friends,  who  however,  sometimes 
good-naturedly  bantered  him  on  his  splendouny 
Walter  Savage  Landor  who  was  anxious  that 
D'Orsay  '  should  put  his  pen  in  motion '  wrote 
to  Lady  Blessington  that  he  had  grown  as 
rich  as  Rothschild  '  and  if  Count  D'Orsay 
could  see  me  in  my  new  coat,  he  would  not 
invite  me  so  pressingly  to  come  to  London. 
It  would  brew  ill-blood  between  us  —  half 

plague,  half  cholera.     He  would    say.  "  I  wish 
279 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

that  fellow  had  his  red  forehead  again,  the 
deuce  might  powder  it  for  him."  However  as 
I  go  out  very  little  I  shall  not  divide  the 
world  with  him.' 

Never  perhaps  had  a  man  created  such 
a  sensation  in  society  as  Count  D'Orsay. 
Whether  he  were  guilty  or  not  of  the  charges 
which  scandal  then  or  afterwards  insinuated, 
was  immaterial  to  those  who  sought  him  : 
save  that  it  lent  him  a  certain  piquant  interest 
in  the  eyes  of  women  who  kept  apart  from 
Lady  Blessington  because  of  her  suspected 
share  in  his  sin :  for  the  noblest  hostesses  in 
London  gladly  opened  their  doors  to  him, 
courted  his  company,  and  vied  with  each 
other  in  inviting  him  to  their  tables. 

He  soon  became  the  central  figure  in  a 
hundred  London  drawing-rooms,  where  his 
epigrams  were  repeated  and  his  wit  was 
echoed ;  at  Crockford's  he  gambled  for  big 
sums,  showing  the  same  good-humoured  in- 
difference over  his  losses  as  in  his  gains ; 
at  the  Coventry  he  laid  down  rules  regarding 

sport,    on    which    he    was    an    acknowledged 

280 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

authority;  whilst  again  he  flashed  into  a 
studio  such  as  Benjamin  Haydon's,  where  he 
made  capital  remarks  on  the  picture  of  the 
Duke  of  Wellington  the  artist  was  painting, 
all  of  which  were  sound,  impressive,  and  grand 
'  and  must  be  attended  to ' :  and  then  in  a 
jiffy  to  illustrate  what  he  meant,  in  the  full 
pride  of  his  dandyism  and  without  removing 
his  immaculate  gloves,  'he  took  up  a  nasty 
oily  dirty  hogtool '  and  lowered  the  hind 
quarters  of  Copenhagen  the  Duke's  charger, 
by  bringing  over  a  bit  of  sky.  After  that 
he  bounded  into  his  cab  like  a  young  Apollo 
with  a  fiery  Pegasus,  as  the  painter  writes, 
adding  quaintly  enough  '  I  looked  after  him. 
I  like  to  see  such  specimens.' 

Meanwhile  Lady  Harriet  who  was  his  wife 
in  name  only,  had  grown  into  a  remarkably 
handsome  woman,  with  finely  chiselled  features, 
a  delicate  complexion,  and  a  distinguished 
air.  In  August  1831  she  had  reached  her 
nineteenth  birthday :  and  had  now  gained  a 
self-possession,  force  of  will,  and  power  of 

thought  that,  had   they   been   hers   some   four 
281 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

years  previously,  would  have  preserved  her 
from  a  union  which  was  unsuitable  and 
unhappy  from  the  first.  Her  temperament 
in  all  ways  differed  from  D'Orsay's.  Brilliant, 
dashing,  and  amusing,  he  saw  the  world  from 
an  exterior  point,  whilst  she  in  the  solitude 
which  she  preferred,  and  because  of  the  wrongs 
which  were  hers,  had  become  sensitive  and 
grave,  had  grown  to  look  beneath  the  surface 
of  things,  and  to  regard  mankind  for  what 
they  were,  rather  than  for  what  they  seemed. 
That  her  husband  who  was  almost 
worshipped  abroad,  neglected  one  who  failed 
to  appreciate  him,  there  can  be  no  doubt ; 
and  the  injustice  of  his  treatment  was  em- 
phasised by  the  fact  of  all  he  owed  her. 
For  within  twelve  months  of  his  marriage  he 
received  as  part  of  her  dowry  twenty  thousand 
pounds:  whilst  Lord  Blessington  bound  his 
executors,  within  twelve  months  of  his  decease 
to  invest  a  similar  sum  in  the  funds,  the 
interest  thereof  to  be  paid  to  Count  D'Orsay 
during  his  life,  and  after  his  death  to  his  wife 

Lady    Harriet :     the    principal    at    her    death 
282 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

going  to  any  children  of  their  marriage,  or 
in  case  of  failure  of  issue,  to  be  held  in  trust 
for  the  executor  and  administrator  of  D'Orsay. 

Though  Lady  Blessington  extended  to  her 
the  kindness  she  showed  to  all,  yet  Lady 
Harriet,  young,  retiring,  and  occupying  an 
equivocal  position,  could  not  but  feel  sup- 
pressed, and  considered  herself  slighted  in 
the  society  which  gathered  round  her  beauti- 
ful and  intellectual  step-mother.  Jekyll  in 
one  of  his  letters  to  Lady  Gertrude  Sloane 
Stanley  gives  a  picture  of  '  the  pretty 
melancholy  Comtesse '  gliding  into  the  draw- 
ing-room for  a  few  minutes  after  one  of  those 
Cuisine  de  'Paris  exquise  at  which  she  had  not 
been  present,  and  then  retiring  '  to  nurse  her 
influenza.'  Instead  of  being  the  wife  of  her 
husband  and  the  mistress  of  a  home,  she  found 
herself  a  supernumerary  in  a  circle  with  which 
she  had  no  sympathy.  Disagreements  followed, 
rebellion  set  in  ;  and  in  the  autumn  of  1831,  she 
and  Count  D'Orsay  separated  by  mutual  consent. 

Her   subsequent  history  may  be  anticipated. 

Haying   left:  S.eamo.re    Place,  she,  accompanied 

283 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

by  her  aunt  and  her  sister,  travelled  through 
Italy  and  eventually  settled  in  Paris.  Here 
she  occupied  her  time  in  writing  feuilletons 
and  novels  in  the  French  language,  in  the 
preface  to  one  of  which,  L  Ombre  du 
Bonheur,  she  says  '  Being  left  alone  in  the 
wide  world  at  twenty  years  of  age,  without 
the  blessings  of  a  family  and  without  any 
direct  objects  to  which  my  affections  might 
be  legitimately  attached,  I  soon  acquired  the 
habits  of  contemplation  and  remark,  and  as 
an  inevitable  consequence  that  of  writing. 
Silent  and  reserved  it  was  a  constant  con- 
solation to  me  to  confine  my  inmost  thoughts 
to  the  guardianship  of  paper,  instead  of 
communicating  them  to  those  everyday 
acquaintances,  miscalled  friends :  who  too 
frequently  wantonly  betray  that  confidence 
which  has  been  intrusted  to  them.' 

In  Paris  she  mixed  amongst  the  society  to 
which  her  rank  entitled  her.  Young  and 
beautiful,  unprotected  and  sympathetic,  she 
was  much  admired,  and  eventually  she  con- 
tracted a  friendship  with  the  Due  d'Orleans, 
284 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

prince  royal  of  France  and  son  of  Louis 
Philippe  'whose  sheltering  kindness'  we  are 
delicately  told  '  could  not  have  been  other- 
wise than  thankfully  received  by  one  in  so 
desolate  and  peculiar  a  situation.' 

On  Lady's  Harriet's  departure,  the  scandal 
that  before  had  seemed  vague  and  ill-founded, 
now  gained  strength,  and  as  it  would  appear 
foundation.  All  kinds  of  rumours  were  in  the 
air.  Count  D'Orsay  could  no  longer  remain 
under  Lady  Blessington's  roof,  and  accordingly 
he  took  a  small  house  in  Curzon  Street  close 
by.  Neither  he  nor  the  Countess  seemed  to 
realise  that  a  return  to  his  own  country 
was  necessary  to  silence  slander.  He  was 
so  to  speak  her  son-in-law,  a  family  tie 
regarded  with  more  reverence  in  his  country 
than  in  this ;  she  was  nearly  twelve  years 
his  senior ;  and  moreover  shortly  before  her 
death  his  mother  had  extracted  a  promise 
from  Lady  Blessington  that  she  would  look 
after  the  Count,  who  as  has  already  been 
stated,  was  wholly  ignorant  of  the  value  of 

money,    and    incapable   of    curtailing    his   own 

285 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

extravagances,  or  of  guarding  himself  against 
imposition. 

At  all  events  Count  D'Orsay,  though  living 
elsewhere,  was  constantly  in  Lady  Blessington's 
house,  where  it  will  be  remembered  her  sister 
Miss  Power  resided  ;  he  entertaining  her  guests, 
and  maintaining  with  her  an  unbroken  friend- 
ship :  their  manner  being,  as  Mrs  Newton 
Crosland  says,  '  very  much  that  of  mother 
and  son.' 

Though  secretly  humiliated  and  grieved  by 
the  scandal  which  assailed  her,  Lady  Blessing- 
ton  now  more  than  ever  resolved  to  present 
a  brave  front  to  the  world.  Accordingly  she 
entertained  as  before,  the  distinguished  men 
who  remained  her  friends  through  life ;  and 
frequently  was  present  in  her  box  at  the 
opera  where  sumptuously  attired  and  magni- 
ficently bejewelled,  she  was,  .more  than  royalty 
itself,  the  object  on  which  thousands  of  eyes 
were  curiously  bent,  towards  which  innumer- 
able glasses  were  turned  :  she  receiving 
between  the  acts,  as  might  a  queen  her 

courtiers,    the   most   notable   members  of  both 
286 


LADY  BLESSINGTON 

houses  of  parliament,  judges,  generals,  and 
diplomats  who  came  to  pay  her  in  public 
the  tribute  of  their  homage. 

And  when  she  drove  abroad  to  take  the 
air,  her  passage  through  the  streets  or  round 
the  Row,  attracted  the  wonder  and  admiration 
of  all  who  saw :  for  her  carriage  '  the  most 
faultless  thing  of  its  kind  in  the  world,' 
resembled  a  chariot  in  size.  Gracefully  built 
and  lightly  hung,  it  was  painted  green,  the 
wheels  white  picked  out  with  green  and 
crimson,  whilst  the  panels  were  emblazoned 
with  arms  and  supporters,  surmounted  by  a 
coronet.  It  was  drawn  by  a  splendid  pair 
of  dark  bays,  and  driven  by  a  coachman  in 
powdered  hair,  velvet  breeches,  and  silken 
stockings,  whose  elevation  on  an  unusually 
high  box-seat,  made  him  conspicuous  above 
his  fellows.  The  two  footmen  who  stood 
behind  were  clad  as  he,  and  matched  each 
other  in  their  equal  height  of  six  feet. 

But  all  this  bravery  of  appearance  did  not 
shield  her  against  the  mortifications  to  which 

an    equivocal    position    exposed    a    woman    of 

287 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS 

sensitive  mind,  whose  desire  it  was  to  win 
the  amity  of  all,  to  incur  the  malice  of  none. 
And  guard  against  them  as  she  might,  or 
ignore  them  as  she  would  make  it  appear, 
there  were  ever  slights  and  slurs  to  be  met 
and  endured,  flung  at  her  in  subtle  and 
unexpected  ways  by  her  relentless  sex,  which 
in  secret  made  her  wince. 

It  was  only  to  those  whom  she  believed 
were  her  sincere  friends,  that  she  deigned 
to  show  her  heart.  Amongst  those  she 
included  Mrs  Charles  Mathews,  who  since 
her  son  had  been  the  guest  of  the  Bless- 
ingtons,  had  continually  expressed  her  grati- 
tude to  and  friendship  for  them.  Writing 
to  her  a  few  weeks  after  Lady  Harriet's 
departure,  the  Countess  says  '  Your  letter 
found  me  sinking  under  all  the  nervous 
excitation  natural  for  a  sensitive  person  to 
feel  under  such  painful  and  embarrassing 
circumstances  as  I  find  myself  placed  in.' 

And  towards  the  end  of  this  year,  December 
the  7th,  1831,  in  a  letter  also  addressed  to 

Mrs  Mathews,  there  is  a  bitter  cry  that  shows 
288 


LADY  BLESS1NGTON 

how  sore  was  the  wound  from  which  she 
suffered.  In  this  she  says — 'What  shall  I 
say  in  return  for  the  many  sweet  but  too 
flattering  things  your  partiality  has  prompted 
you  to  address  to  me  ?  All  that  I  say  is, 
that  if  it  had  been  my  lot  in  life  to  have 
met  with  many  hearts  like  yours,  I  might 
have  become  all  that  your  affection  leads 
you  to  believe  me ;  or  if  in  my  near  relations 
I  had  met  with  only  kind  usage  or  delicacy, 
I  should  now  not  only  be  a  happier,  but  a 
better  woman,  for  happiness  and  goodness 
are  more  frequently  allied  than  we  think. 

'  But  I  confess  to  you  my  beloved  friend,  a 
great  part  of  the  milk  and  honey  of  nature 
with  which  my  heart  originally  overflowed  is 
turned  into  gall :  and  though  I  have  still 
enough  goodness  left  to  prevent  its  bitterness 
from  falling  even  on  those  who  have  caused 
it,  yet  have  I  not  power  to  prevent  its  cor- 
roding my  own  heart,  and  rusting  many 
of  the  qualities  with  which  nature  had 
blessed  me. 

'  To  have  a  proud  spirit  with  a  tender  heart 
VOL.  i.  289  T 


THE  MOST  GORGEOUS  LADY  BLESSINGTON 

is  an  unfortunate  union,  and  I  have  not  been 
able  to  curb  the  first  or  steel  the  second ; 
and  when  I  have  felt  myself  the  dupe  of 
those  for  whom  I  sacrificed  so  much,  and  in 
return  only  asked  for  affection,  it  has  soured 
me  against  a  world  where  I  feel  alone — mis- 
understood— with  my  very  best  qualities  turned 
against  me.  If  an  envious  or  a  jealous  crowd 
misjudge  or  condemn,  a  proud  spirit  can  bear 
up  against  injustice,  conscious  of  its  own  recti- 
tude ;  but  if  in  the  most  inveterate  assailants 
one  finds  those  whom  we  believe  to  be  our 
trusted  friends,  the  blow  is  incurable  and 
leaves  behind  a  wound  that  will  in  spite  of 
every  effort,  bleed  afresh  as  memory  recalls 
the  cruel  conduct  that  inflicted  it. 

'  Caesar  defended  himself  against  his  foes, 
but  when  he  saw  his  friend  Brutus  strike  at 
him,  he  gave  up  the  struggle.  If  anything 
can  preserve  me  from  the  mildew  of  the 
soul  that  is  growing  on  me,  it  will  be  your 
affection  which  almost  reconciles  me  to  human 

nature.' 

END  OF  VOL.  I. 


Colston  and  Coy.  Limited,  Printers,  Edinburgh. 


DATE  DUE 


PRINTED  IN  U.S.A.